Monday, January 12, 2009

In memoriam: Robert L. Bacon, Ph.D., 1918-2009

We have just received word that Dr. Robert L. Bacon, PhD., Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, passed away this past Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. Information about memorial services will be announced in time.

A 1940 graduate of Hamilton College, Bob Bacon received his doctorate at Yale University. He joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1944, and remained on staff there until 1951. After a single year in Memphis, he went on to Johns Hopkins. Finding Baltimore a bit too dangerous for his young family, Bacon agreed to interview for a position in the anatomy department at the University of Oregon Medical School. He remained on the faculty in Portland from 1955 to 1988.

Dr. Bacon was gracious enough to sit for an oral history interview with us back in 2003, with his good friend Dr. Reid "Sam" Connell, PhD, as interviewer. Dr. Bacon was still in the process of editing the transcript when his health began to fail, but the following excerpt needs no correction: it perfectly illustrates Dr. Bacon's arrival in 1955 and explains his love of the Pacific Northwest:

So I came out from Baltimore, and I had never been in the Northwest before. I’d been at Stanford, stayed pretty much close to home, San Francisco and Stanford and down to LA for a visit with friends, that sort of thing, but didn’t really explore the coast. I came out from Baltimore—of course, I took the train, which was the way to do it then, and the Great Northern Empire Builder was like traveling in a nice hotel, you know. A fantastic way to travel. Well, I woke up in my little roomette, little bedroom thing, on the train, and in the morning—on the Washington side of the river, Columbia River, coming in—and looked out—I had a window, and there was Multnomah Falls across the river, and the peak of Mount Hood, dazzling snow-white above the forest, and I woke up sharply, and then came into Portland.

Dr. Pearson arranged for me to stay at the University Club for a few days, and I stayed here for about a week. I came up the Hill the first day, got out of the cab at the foot of the stairs, which are no longer there, where the street currently goes past the parking lot down the hill here, just around on the corner, and got out of the cab. At that time, that whole slope was covered with Douglas firs, the biggest trees I’d ever seen in my life up to that point. And it was May, the first week in May, and it was—all the rhododendrons were in bloom, and Dean Baird—I didn’t know at the time, but Dave Baird was a real gardener. He had the place beautiful, every spot of it. The campus was, I think, easily the most beautiful in the United States, except possibly for Duke. But just an amazing place. No medical school had anything like this.

I walked up the steps, nice beautiful stone steps, to the upper level there, turned around and looked out, and the University Hospital had just been completed, and I could see out between University Hospital and the outpatient clinic there, and there was—it was a National Geographic blue sky, and Mount Hood was dazzling white, as it was before the present days of smog interfering with it so much, and I just couldn’t
believe my eyes.

A true gentleman, Dr. Bacon will be greatly missed.

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