It's a huge responsibility (and a privilege) to write about someone's life after they have died; I inevitably come away wishing I had known the subject personally. That's how I felt when writing about Leonard Herzenberg, PhD, who died last week. He was a scientific giant and a passionate advocate for those less fortunate than himself, and he and his wife of 60 years, Leonore Herzenberg, collaborated scientifically at Stanford for five decades.
From the obituary:
"Len was a valuable and treasured member of our Stanford Medicine community for more than 50 years," said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the medical school. "He was a kind, thoughtful and just person eager to share scientific discoveries and opportunities with his friends and colleagues, and to improve access to education and career-advancement opportunities to women and disadvantaged youth. FACS technology made possible the birth of modern immunology, stem cell research and proteomics, and significantly advanced the clinical care of people with diseases such as cancer and HIV infection. Len's scientific accomplishments are prodigious. But it is his commitment to helping others that will be his enduring legacy."
Over and over again I heard words like "warm," "welcoming" and "remarkable" while writing this article. And, although I had worked with Len Herzenberg in the past (most notably in 2006 when he was awarded the Kyoto Prize), I didn't realize the extent of his sense of fairness and responsibility to others. From the article:
Herzenberg was well known for his pursuit of social justice, his desire to help those less fortunate then himself and his warm and welcoming demeanor. He donated the money accompanying his Kyoto Prize to nonprofit organizations working to improve health, human rights and education.
[The Herzenbergs] encouraged minority teenagers to pursue a college education by establishing a program to bring high school students from East Palo Alto to Stanford to learn about medicine, biology and the multiple benefits of higher education. In addition, from the 1960s onward, Leonard Herzenberg conducted a behind-the-scenes campaign to expand career advancement opportunities for women in immunology and in science in general.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and remembrances about Len Herzenberg, or messages to his family, on our online guestbook. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations in Len's memory be made to the Len and Lee Herzenberg endowed fund at the Stanford School of Medicine. Gifts may be sent to Stanford Medical Center Development, 3172 Porter Drive, Suite 210, Palo Alto, CA. 94304, or made online. Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Photo by Steve Gladfelter