Robert Sussman

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How do you plan to honor Robert's memory?

Ian Colquhoun
I want to share a couple of short anecdotes from my experience as one of Bob's (the "Bob-Man") doctoral students, because I think these will show both his sense of humour and his examplary support of his graduate students. Indeed, when I finally submitted my doctoral dissertation to Wash. U.'s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I made sure in my "Acknowledgements" section to thank Bob for making my time at Wash. U. so enjoyable!
So.. to the anecdotes...
1. My Master's thesis research had been on the reproductive behaviour of male brown lemurs. While my Master's program was at McMaster U. in Hamilton, Canada, I did my MA thesis research at the (then named) Duke U. Primate Center in Durham, NC. From that experience, I became connected with a wonderful network of folks, including Ben Freed and Linda Taylor (both also former doctoral students of Bob's) -- thisis how Wash. U. got on my radar as an institution I might want to look at for doctoral studies. So, back in Hamilton after my MA thesis research (this would be spring 1985), I took Ben's and Linda's advice and wrote Bob a letter expressing my interest in lemur studies (and brown lemurs in particular). He replied with a very supportive letter that a focus on brown lemurs was an opportune one, and that he looked forward to seeing my doctoral application. So, I applied and was accepted, starting at Wash. U. in the fall 1986 term. *However*, what I hadn't counted on was that the "fall" term at US universities actually starts in late August. Meanwhile, back in Canada, I was working a great summer job and looking at making time and a half over the Labour Day Weekend. Just in advance of Labour Day, though, I received a phone call from Ben Freed (with whom I'd arranged to share an apartment in St. Louis) -- Ben sounded rather worried... Bob had been asking where I was and whether I was planning on showing up for the fall '86 term. So, at Ben's prodding, I gave Bob a phone call to explain I still had work obligations through the Labour Day Weekend (which was no big deal, in the end). Our conversation turned to the topic of my possible doctoral research (which I had indicated in my application I saw as being focused on brown lemurs). Bob was direct: "So, you want to study *black* lemurs, right?". I gave a halting, grad student-esque reply, "Well, I was, um, hoping to, um study brown lemurs" -- to which Bob replied, "So, you want to study black lemurs, right?!". And as I noted in the "Acknowledgements" section of my dissertation, the rest was, as they say, history. I went on to study black lemurs at St. Louis Zoo, and then conducted the first long-term study of black lemur socioecology in the wild (and, still, my doctoral research is the only long-term study of Eulemur macaco that as been conducted). Bob saw this project for me, even before I was in St. Louis!

2. At the other end of my doctoral studies at Wash. U. came my succesful defense of my dissertation in April 1997. That year, St. Louis had also hosted the annual conference of the American Assoc. of Physical Anthropologists; that ran from a Wednesday through Saturday -- I had coordinated things to have my dissertation defense on the following Monday. It was a long defense, but all went well -- when it came time for me to leave the room so that the Examination Committee could deliberate, Bob came and found me within five minutes to congratulate me. That was followed by a get-together that evening with Bob and Linda (and Katya and Diana) at their home. There was champagne, and Bob presented me with a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap and a honkin' big Wash. U. thermos mug (both of which I still have!). It was a small gathering, with Sonia and I (and our first daughter, Sylvie), and Ben freed was there too -- , as were Glenn Conroy, Jane Phillips-Conroy, Bob Martin, and Ian Tattersall (!!). Thanks to the timing of my dissertation defense being so close to the AAPA Conference, Bob had been able to orchestrate a gathering of the top minds in primate evolutionary biology for my dissertation celebration. How nerdy and sweet is that! For two hours, after we popped the champagne, Ben Freed and I sat in rapt attention as Bob, Glenn, Bob M., and Ian T. exchanged opinions and views on primate evolutionary biology (Sonia, and Linda, and Jane, had kind of gravitated to the kitchen at this point) -- Ben and I didn't say a peep... we were just taken aback by the depth of primatological knowledge which we were able witness. So, I have my St. Louis Cards ball cap, and my Wash. U. thermos mug, but that evening and that discussion of primate evolutionary biology were both such awesome academic presents, there is no way I could repay them. But, Bob was happy to give them, and that is why he was such a fantastic PhD supervisor and such a lovely man.
Jennifer Weghorst
Bob was a great man, and I owe him so much. I plan to honor his memory in part by continuing to share his important lessons on the myth of biological race and the dangers of scientific racism. Bob left this world too early, but he left the world so much better off than when he found it.
Myron Shekelle
It would be nice if those of us who were contributing chapters to his book on primate behavior and ecology, were to complete that work for him.

Given the length of time this process has continued, I open the discussion by suggesting that we publish what we have, perhaps as an ebook if no better alternative is available. It could be renamed, perhaps something like "Sussman's Guide to the Behavior and Ecology of Primates". Maybe downloading the book would be free, with an option to donate money to a fund that Bob might have supported.

Maybe someone else has a better idea?