DR. WILLIAM MARTIN GELBART
1945 - 2015
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Gelbart, Dr. William Martin Died Tuesday morning August 11, 2015 after a valiant fight with cancer. Bill was born September 11, 1945, in Brooklyn, NY. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Brooklyn College, CUNY in 1966 and Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He went on to post graduate work at the California institute of Technology and the University of Connecticut from 1972 to 1976. He took a position on the faculty of Harvard University in Biology in 1976 and was in that position until his passing. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1980 and to Full Professor in 1983. Bill's scientific research focused on the genetics and genomics of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This small fly is used as a model to inform on gene identity and function in humans and has been instrumental in providing a better understanding of our own genome. The research performed in the Gelbart lab has contributed significantly to both areas. In addition to his genetic and genomic work, Bill was one of the founders and the lead director of FlyBase, an on-line database that collects and makes available to the scientific community the collective knowledge on the biology, genetics and genomics of Drosophila. This publicly available data source has become an invaluable resource to the international research community and its utility is due in no small part to Bill's dedication and leadership to and in the project. Another abiding devotion of Bill's was a series of meetings on the molecular biology of Drosophila held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, Greece. Bill was a mainstay at these meetings from their inception in 1980 and attended every session from that point on. This meeting is held every other year and attracts a small group of elite scientists working in the area of Drosophila genetics and genomics. In the last four years Bill acted as the chair of the meeting. Through their attendance at the Crete Meetings Bill and his wife Susan gained an appreciation and love of Greek culture and made innumerable friends in the local scientific community and beyond. Indeed Bill and Susan became well known in small villages on the island where they were treated as respected friends and family. Bill was a dedicated teacher providing a clear introduction to genetics to scores of Harvard undergraduates and mentoring several graduate and postgraduate students in his laboratory. The latter have gone on to successful careers in research and teaching in academe and industry. He was a Harvard College Freshman Advisor for many years, and the Faculty Advisory Committee Chair of The Harvard Foundation; promoting intercultural and race relations. For many years, he served as the Head Tutor for the undergraduate concentration in biology and as program director for an interdepartmental predoctoral training program in genetics and genomics. Bill was also a coauthor of a genetics textbook that gained wide adoption due to the high quality and currency of its contents. Beyond the Harvard campus Bill developed a course "Frontiers in Genomics" in collaboration with colleagues at the University of New Mexico. The course was designed to inform and mentor under-represented minority students in the fields of genetics and genomics. The course was very successful and many of its participants have gone on to graduate studies at Harvard, Stanford and The University of Washington. As is clear from his involvement in FlyBase and the UNM course Bill was dedicated to service to the community. A small list of his community service includes organizing the Drosophila meeting, sitting on the Drosophila board, and serving as its president. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of WormBase, Zebrafish Information Network (ZFIN), The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), and The Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) and was a member of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Large-Scale Genome Sequencing Network Advisory Committee, the National Advisory Council to the NHGRI, Chair of the NHGRI Coordinating Committee for Selection of Large-Scale Sequencing Projects, and a Board Member of Genome Canada. He was an advisor to the original Human Genome Sequencing project. Testimony to community appreciation of these efforts, Bill was awarded the Genetics Society of America George Beadle Medal in 2010. This award is presented annually for outstanding contributions to the community of genetics researchers. Bill is survived by his beloved, devoted wife, Susan (nee Russo); his loving daughters Marnie Carey, Courtney Phelon, and Jennifer Walsh; his adoring grandchildren Delilah, Theodore, and Amelia; sons-in-law James Carey and Scott Phelon; his brother Herb, sister-in-law Susan; his in-laws, three sisters-in-law; many nieces, nephews, and dear friends. Bill and Susan enjoyed extensive traveling, and were often joined with close friends in Maui and Crete. Until recently, Bill was an avid squash player at Newton Squash and Tennis Club, and was an active member in club leadership, serving as president at one time. He was actively involved in coaching for Newton Girls Soccer, and served as its president. He moved to Wayland in 1999 and was active in coaching for Wayland BAYS soccer. He became a licensed FIFA soccer referee which he enjoyed for many years. Bill was a significant contributor to our body of scientific knowledge and was instrumental in the dissemination of that knowledge beyond a narrow portion of the science community. Bill was a force for good and was an excellent teacher on all levels, a well-respected research scientist and simply a wonderful human being. This humanity is partially reflected in the fact that he never forgave Walter O'Malley for moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles but managed to salve this wound by becoming a devoted fan of the Patriots and the Red Sox. We are all the better for his presence among us and we are the less for his passing. He will be sorely missed. A memorial service honoring Bill will take place on Saturday, October 24 at 1 p.m. in The Memorial Church of Harvard University. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to The Greater Boston Food Bank or WGBH (Boston's PBS). Arrangements entrusted to the care of the John C. Bryant Funeral Home of WAYLAND www.johncbryantfuneralhome.com.


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Published in Boston Globe from Sep. 12 to Sep. 13, 2015.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
OCT
24
Memorial service
01:00 PM
The Memorial Church of Harvard University
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Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Susan Russo Gelbart
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7 entries
September 24, 2015
Bill Gelbart's class @ Harvard MCB, Spring 2008
Leslie Beh
September 18, 2015
Rest in Peace Billy. Joe and Lois Carbo
September 15, 2015
Bill was a kind and generous man, a great scientist and mentor, and an enlivening, effervescent presence in the drosophila and genomics communities. I will always be grateful for the help he provided at a critical point in my career. I am saddened to hear of his untimely death, and extend my condolences to Susan and the family.
Stan Letovsky
September 15, 2015
Bill with his first lab group in early 1980's.
Michael Hoffmann
September 14, 2015
I'm truly sorry to hear about Bill's premature death. Bill and I played many handball games in my years ar Harvard, between 1976 and 1983, and we were good friends and colleagues in those days. My sincere condolences, Jakob
Jakob Franke
September 13, 2015
Thom, Michael, Bill - Crete 2002 - I think the photo was taken by Ruth Lehmann
Debbie Andrew
September 13, 2015
Howard, Ed, Bill - Crete 2002 - I think the photo was taken by Ruth Lehmann
Debbie Andrew
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