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“In human genetics, we think Bob belongs to us, but the dentists, the pathologists, the dermatologists, the oncologists, the reconstructive surgeons, and the craniofacial specialists all think he belongs to them too.” So extolled his longtime colleague and friend Judy Hall in her citation for Bob Gorlin’s Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education presented at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) in Toronto.1 It is almost impossible to describe in words Bob’s tremendous influence in all aspects of medicine, and to so many people, his largesse and his unselective unconditional generosity. Yet this single citation says it all. No wonder his influence was so far-reaching in all walks of medicine and life, and no wonder he had so many admirers the world around.
Where did it all begin? Bob had a long and involved history, self-declared as “interesting.” He attended college at Columbia University in New York City, and worked his way through school, then served in the army during World War II, followed by dental school at Washington University in St. Louis. As Bob himself liked to recount, as he went through fellowships at NIH and Columbia and pursued a Masters degree in Iowa, it struck him that knowledge about the genetic aetiology of dental and craniofacial abnormalities was non-existent at that time, and that this would be an interesting academic niche. After completing his formal education (I say “formal” because Bob continued educating himself his entire life) he moved to Minneapolis, where he stayed for over five decades. He was immediately appointed Associate Professor and Chairman of the Divisions of Oral Histology and Oral Pathology. In 1978, he was honoured by the privileged designation of the University of Minnesota Regents’ Professor of Oral Pathology and Genetics. Bob “officially” retired in …