I am sad to inform you that Dr. Marion Murray, professor emeritus in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, passed away on September 9 following complications of esophageal cancer.
Dr. Murray was a founding member of our Spinal Cord Research Center, leading its research activities for over 30 years to create one of the most prominent centers in the United States. She inspired and mentored countless students, fellows and faculty, established a world-class research program and published more than 150 scientific articles and reviews. She exemplified a scientific leader who passionately confronted significant problems for human health and then generously shared her knowledge with others. The focus of her research was on neuroplasticity and its relation to recovery of function after spinal cord injury, studying the role of axonal regeneration and sprouting, neuroprotection, and restoration of function lost following injury.
Dr. Murray received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin in physiology and did her postdoctoral work at McGill University in anatomy and at the Rockefeller University in neurobiology. She was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Chicago, and in 1973 moved to our predecessor school the Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Motivated by the devastating impact of damage to the spinal cord on patients and their families, Dr. Murray and her colleague the late Dr. Michael Goldberger forged an interactive group to discover the mechanisms of injury and interventions towards recovery of function in this major clinical problem. Under her leadership, the center established multidisciplinary research training in spinal cord injury and created a program that has had international impact, with influence in basic and translational neuroscience beyond her initial vision.
Dr. Murray received numerous awards, including the NIH Javits Neurosciences Investigator Award, the Fogarty Fellowship, the MCPHU Research Achievement Award and, most recently, the Reeve-Irvine Research Award. She served on the editorial boards of scientific journals such as Experimental Neurology and Journal of Comparative Neurology; on scientific review committees, including for the NIH and the VA; and as the scientific director of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, one of the major private foundations focused on spinal cord injury.
By Itzhak Fischer, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
College of Medicine, Drexel University
On May 30, 2018 we lost a truly remarkable person when Raymond Grill, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. Following our announcement of his passing, we witnessed an outpouring of sorrow from Ray’s friends, students, and fellow scientists. To us, Ray was a gifted scientist, tireless mentor, valued member in our scientific community, an early member and ardent supporter of Mission Connect. One of his former student’s, Jennifer Dulin, Ph.D., shared her thoughts with her fellow members of Mission Connect. No one could have described Ray more accurately and I would like to share this with you.
“Ray was a very rare type of individual who has been a force for good in the lives of practically everyone who has known him. He was an unusually selfless person who was fully dedicated to helping others. He always, always kept the focus of his work tightly centered on the issue of “How is this going to improve the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury?” It can sometimes be easy to lose track of the real-world relevance of our research, but Ray never let his students forget it. He was a moral compass in that sense. He was in this business for no other reason than his burning need to figure out ways to help ease some of the burdens carried by these individuals and their loved ones. This is the mindset we should all keep.
Aside from research, he was also a uniquely compassionate person who gave himself fully to everyone who asked of him. He has taken so much of his time to give advice, lend an ear, and mentor an immense number of students/trainees/junior faculty over the years. He has helped many of his friends to cope and pull through during times of crisis. He was always nonjudgmental, loving and kind, but honest, practical and straightforward. He really, really cared about people, and would do anything in his power to help those who fell on hard times. I think that there is no greater or nobler thing you can do in life than that.”
By Cynthia Adkins
Executive Director, TIRR Foundation
Timothy Schallert, age 68, died on May 29, 2018 at his home in Austin Texas, with his wife, Diane, and sons, Robbie and Kellan, by his side. He had advanced Parkinson's Disease. Tim received his PhD in 1976 working with Ernest P. Lindholm at Arizona State University, followed by postdoctoral training with Ian Q. Whishaw at the University of Lethbridge and Philip Teitelbaum at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. In 1979 he joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until he retired and was named Professor Emeritus in 2017. He was also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and Adjunct Research Scientist at Henry Ford Health Medical Center.
Tim was broadly interested in brain-behavioral interactions, especially in the context of neural repair and plasticity responses to CNS injury and neurodegeneration. He was prolific, authoring more than 250 articles, which have been cited more than 20 thousand times. His discoveries that behavioral manipulations potently affect degenerative and regenerative responses to CNS damage had profound impact in shaping current understanding of the experience-dependency of these processes.
That Tim was often called a "rat neurologist" or " rat whisperer" reflects that he was also a driving force in the behavioral level refinement of rodent models of CNS injury and disease. He developed or helped refine many of the sensitive assays now in common use with such models, including the Schallert cylinder, bilateral tactile stimulation (a.k.a. "sticky tape"), ledged tapered beam, vermicelli handling, and corner tests.
Tim leaves behind a large scientific family of adoring colleagues, collaborators and mentees. To us, Tim was not merely a great scientist, he was a seemingly indefatigable force of nature, a wildly inspiring communicator, a role model, a champion, a person with whom it was endlessly fun to talk science, and a very dear friend who is now deeply and painfully missed.
By Theresa A. Jones, PhD
Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Dennis M. Feeney, age 76, passed away peacefully at home with his wife Marilyn at his side on Saturday, April 7, 2018. He had a long distinguished career as both a scientist and teacher. Receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1962 in Experimental Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University he went on to receive a Masters of Arts in Psychology at Kent State University in Ohio from 1962-1964. Receiving his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1968 he stayed on for a full year to complete his postdoctoral training at the UCLA Brain Research Institute.
Dr. Feeney settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1970 when he joined the faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico.
Dennis enjoyed his associations with A. Earl Walker, M.D. who, came to the University of New Mexico after retiring as Chair of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. Together they addressed many issues related to epilepsy and the topic of brain death. However, Dr. Feeney’s main interest was the impact catecholamines had on recovery after experimental cortical lesions the brain.
During his tenure, Dennis wrote many articles related to the topic of recovery of function. One of his most seminal papers appeared in SCIENCE in 1982 where he and his students reported how amphetamine, haloperidol and experience interacted to affect the rate of recovery from motor cortex injury in rodents.
Dr. Feeney had a great influence on his students instilling a sense of morality and ethics while, at the same time, demanding effort for the advancement of science that he expected of himself even though he was paraplegic since 1973. It was always a joy to come to Dr. Feeney’s laboratory. One would always have the ability to experience the excitement of doing something no one else has ever done before. As a student, you could depend on Dr. Feeney to give you advice on all matters of science including philosophy.
In closing, those of us who worked with Dr. Feeney will miss his compassion and love for science, while fighting all the battles associated with being paraplegic for 45 years. We, who worked with him, adopted Dennis as a scientific father who cared, and yes, even loved us, as if we were part of his family.
By David Hovda, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair of Academic Affairs, UCLA