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Roger Morgan Spanswick

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Spanswick, Roger Morgan

Roger Morgan Spanswick, a gentle man, died on February 12th, 2014 at home with his family. A Professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering, he continued working diligently, with the help of colleagues, til the day before his death at age 74. Roger was born in 1939 in the twin villages of Barford St. John and St. Michael, Oxfordshire, England. After Banbury Grammar School, he achieved an Honors Degree in Physics from Birmingham University. He developed an interest in Biophysics with Profs. Dainty and Williams by taking a diploma course, and graduated with a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Edinburgh in 1964. While a graduate students, Roger was employed as an assistant Lecturer in Physics. It was also in Edinburgh that he met his wife, Helen, to whom he was married in 1963. In spite of Helen, they moved on to Cambridge University where he was a Post Doc. in Plant Biophysics from 1964-1967. Their son Andrew was born shortly before they sailed to the US on the second last voyage of The Queen Mary. Roger has been an employee of Cornell University for more than 46 years. He started as an Assistant Professor of Plant Physiology, became an Association Professor in 1973, and a Full Professor in 1979. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1980-81 and is a Fellow of the AAAS. Roger's highly cited, courageous research with 14 Post Docs and 14 graduated students focused on various aspects of ion transport. He proved the presence of an electrogenic ion pump in plant cells. Subsequent biochemical work led to identification of proton transport ATPases at the plasma membrane and vacuolar membranes, and current work with his first graduated student, David Keifer, concerns sugar transport. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching a course in metabolic engineering and loved Friday lunches with Carl Leopold and Randy Wayne. Central to Roger's life has been Humanism, the rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. And so with integrity, he lived his life a truly kind man, secure in his beliefs, aware of his place in the Universe, and determined to improve the world for us all. With a fellow student, as an undergraduate in 1958, he organized a club called The New Thinkers, to which he invited speakers. In Scotland, from 1962-1964, he was Vice Chairman of The Edinburgh Humanists. His many concerns included environmental issues, abuse of scientific freedom, and the exploitation of science by corporate greed. A major disappointment was that America has not accepted Universal Health Care with a single payment plan. Roger loved walking fast, dancing, all genres of music, and his favorite authors, John Le Carre, Ian Rankin, and Richard Dawkins. He was predeceased by his mother, Lucy and father, Arthur of Banbury, Oxfordshire. He is survived by his wife of 50 years and his two sons, of whom he was very proud, Andrew of West Hollywood, CA, and Robert and his wife Vicki Lyons of Rockville, MD. He adored his three grandchildren, Zoe, Colin, and Thomas. In addition, he is survived by his sister, Angela of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and her sons, Ben and Jonathan, as well as several Scottish in-laws and very special colleagues and friends. In lieu of flowers, we would be delighted if you would send donations to the Cancer Resource Center of Tompkins County or Hospicare. We wish to thank the doctors, nurses, and support staff in Ithaca who daily make the lives of cancer patients bearable and even joyful. In the spring, we hope to celebrate Roger's life with a seminar followed by a party for colleagues, friends, and relatives. His parting thought while struggling with multiple myeloma was that while he appreciated everyone's prayers, he would like them to know that Science was responsible for his spiritual and moral strength.

Published in Ithaca Journal on Feb. 14, 2014
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