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A Tribute to Prof. Barry Bean

The following was a memorial resolution presented at the meeting of the university faculty on September 10, 2012

Barry Bean, Ph.D.
Barry Bean, Ph.D.

Memorial Resolution for Professor Barry Bean
September 10, 2012

President Gast, Provost Farrell, members of the senior administration, and fellow members of the Faculty:

On June 25, 2012, we were saddened to learn that Professor Barry Bean had passed away. Barry joined the Lehigh University Faculty in 1973 and served with dedication and distinction for 39 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in Biology from Tufts University in 1964 and his doctorate in Life Sciences from Rockefeller University in 1970. After a year overseas in the Department of Biochemistry at the Indian Institute for Science in Bangalore, India, he retuned to Rockefeller as a Postdoctoral Fellow for an additional two years prior to his appointment as an Assistant Professor in what was then the Department of Biology. Barry served as Chair of the Department from 1983-1985, where he recruited some of the faculty that are here today. He served on too many committees at the department, college, and university levels over the course of his career to be listed here, including multiple terms as a member of the Educational Policy Committee.

From the time he arrived at Lehigh, Barry always believed the University could occupy a special and distinctive place in higher education. His career was defined by an unwavering commitment to making that belief a reality for his students and colleagues. And while Barry was a loyal alum of Tufts, he always said that Lehigh was a better institution. He was never pleased when the US News rankings didn’t support his view.

Barry Bean loved science and students. As a scholar, he was interested in human male reproductive biology. His group focused on the function of sperm and the processes underlying sperm–egg interactions and fertilization, with a special emphasis on how characterizing these mechanisms might lead to new forms of contraception in males. He published regularly in this area, was a frequent presenter at meetings, and served on the Editorial Board of the Archives of Andrology.

Barry’s passion for science was evident to all who knew him. It was never just about his own interests; he was widely read and always willing to discuss your research. And these were inevitably valuable conversations. He had a gift for offering constructive comments and asking tough questions that were encouraging and never seemed critical. You left these conversations with a sharper, more crystallized view of your project and program. This ability to help shape thinking made Barry a wonderful mentor not only to his students, but also to his junior and senior colleagues. He was a sounding board that we relied on throughout the years.

There is another important aspect of Barry’s scholarly life that should be mentioned. He was always aware of the “big picture” implications of his research and actively sought collaborations with clinicians and members of the medical community. He fully appreciated the potential applications of his research and understood “bench-to-bedside” long before it became one of the highest priorities for the National Institutes of Health. Barry was early in building a translational research program and was committed to science as a means to better the human condition.

As a teacher and mentor, Barry blended a deep commitment to his students with a demand for intellectual rigor. He was a believer in the Socratic Method, using increasingly probing questions to teach students the art of mastering a literature and thinking through issues. His enthusiasm for science was infectious. We know that students fortunate enough to pass through his classroom or work in his group came away knowing that he cared deeply about both their professional and personal development. Barry worked with more than 120 undergraduates in his lab over the course of his career. Many have gone on to some of the very best graduate and medical schools and one, Katherine Donegan, was the recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship, which is among the most prestigious awards for undergraduates in science, mathematics, and engineering. Barry took great pride in their accomplishments.

For those of us that knew Barry, his work with graduate-level international students was one of the highlights of his career, particularly his mentorship and training of Ph.D. students from Thailand. All of these individuals now occupy faculty positions at universities in their home country. Lehigh’s reputation has been enhanced through his efforts. His work with these students exemplifies Barry’s commitment to diversity. His interest in bringing students from overseas to Lehigh goes back decades and never abated--just ask the members of our Graduate Committee or the people that have occupied the Department Chair’s position in Biological Sciences. Barry knew that globalization was critical for our future long before it became fashionable in higher education. His efforts in welcoming international students to Lehigh and in advocating for the value of having diverse cultures represented at the University, like his belief in translational research, was ahead of its time and testimony to his vision as an educator and global citizen.

Professor Barry Bean was a colleague, mentor, friend, husband, and father. We cannot adequately convey his impact on our professional and personal lives with these words. What we can say was that Barry was a good man in the very best sense of the term. He was gracious, kind, encouraging, insightful, and a wonderful colleague. He believed deeply in social responsibility and that our obligation as educators is to make Lehigh, our community, and hopefully the world, a better place. He was unrelenting in this commitment and, for those of us that knew Barry well, we expect he would say he was never able to do enough. But we would say to you today that he did; his life and influence have made all of us better.

Respectfully submitted,

The Department of Biological Sciences Faculty & Staff


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