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Dr. Robert H. Wasserman


1926 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Dr.  Robert H. Wasserman Obituary
Dr. Robert H. Wasserman

Ithaca - Dr. Robert "Bob" Wasserman, Cornell University Professor Emeritus, passed away peacefully on May 23, 2018. Bob lived a rich life, filled with a lifelong wonder and curiosity of the world, a passion for scientific inquiry, a zest for new adventure, and an unwavering devotion to his family. He lived 92 years, and forever maintained his youthful mind and spirit.

Bob was born on February 11, 1926 to Joseph and Sylvia Wasserman in Schenectady, NY. After enrolling in the Army at 17, Bob was sent to Cornell University for ROTC training. The landscape of Ithaca, as well as the academic vigor of Cornell, resonated with Bob. After his WWII military service, he returned to complete his education and later to embark on his lifelong career.

He earned his B.S. from the College of Agriculture in 1949. In his senior year, he met and fell in love with native Ithacan Marilyn Mintz (B.S. Cornell, 1950, Home Economics). After her graduation, they wed and would go on to share a devoted 63-year partnership. During their marriage, Bob continued his graduate education at Michigan State University (M.S. 1951) and then back home at Cornell (Ph.D. 1953). Throughout his studies, Bob credited numerous colleagues and mentors who set him on a distinguished academic path of scientific discovery.

Dr. Wasserman began his post-graduate career as a researcher at the Atomic Energy Program, University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge (1953), where he soon progressed to Senior Scientist, Medical Division, Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (1955-1957). Bob, Marilyn, and their growing family then returned to Ithaca, where he accepted a position at the College of Veterinary Medicine at his alma mater. In 1989, Bob was named the James Law Professor of Physiology. His distinguished scientific career (1953 - 1998) led to influential discoveries, most significantly identifying and cataloguing the properties of Calcium Binding Protein (CaBP), now known as Calbindin. In response to this achievement and countless others, Bob was inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (1980). Throughout his career, Bob maintained lasting partnerships and friendships with colleagues worldwide. Those who worked with him as graduate students, research assistants, staff, and colleagues cherished his wisdom, patience, exuberance, kindness, and generosity.

In addition to his professional work, Bob Wasserman loved to design and build furniture, weld steel sculptures, sail on Cayuga Lake, shuffle the deck and share a few laughs at his weekly poker night with the gang. He enjoyed a multitude of musical genres including classical, opera, and Benny Goodman era jazz. Sipping Danish beer, great meals with family and friends, and rooting for the New York Yankees were some of his joys. First and foremost, he cherished his family, was deeply committed to wife Marilyn, a loving father to his three daughters, and endlessly interested in all of the details of his grandchildren's lives.

He is survived by daughters Diane Wasserman Herrup (Steven Herrup) of Pittsburgh, PA, Arlene Wasserman of Ithaca, NY, and Judith Wasserman of Morgantown, WV; grandchildren Sofia and Ella Wasserman-Smith of Brooklyn, NY, and Madeline and Jacob Herrup of Pittsburgh, PA; sister Lois Bluestein of Schenectady, NY; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Robert H. Wasserman believed deeply in the power of evidence-based research to remedy critical global issues. Science, he would say, is an essential tool to solve contemporary and future health, environmental, and humanitarian challenges. In memory to his great life and works, please do what you can to continue his commitment through contributions and actions that further this legacy. Contributions to the Union for Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org/honor) or other relevant organizations in his honor will be greatly welcome.

Funeral services were held at Temple Beth-El of Ithaca with Rabbi Scott Glass officiating. We were grateful to gather with close friends and family to reflect upon how Bob has touched our lives. Dr. Wasserman, Bob, Dad, Brother, Uncle, Grandpa - we love you.
Published in Ithaca Journal on June 14, 2018
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