Saturday, July 20, 2019
I first met Larry Roberts at a tinnitus meeting that he and Jos Eggermont organized in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada more than a decade ago. “Smart, well-spoken, affable, fair, supportive, open-minded, thoughtful and curious” are the words I would use to describe Larry. Although Larry had been an Emeritus Professor for many years in the Department of Psychology at McMaster University, his indefatigable curiosity and limitless energy kept him scientifically and socially active up to end. I had the good fortune to talk to Larry at an ARO scientific meeting several years ago about organizing an international conference on tinnitus, hyperacusis, central gain enhancement and cochlear synaptopathy, “hot topics” in the clinical and auditory neuroscience community. Larry mentioned that he was thinking about organizing a special issue for Neuroscience on these topics. We decided to combine our efforts and interests to make the conference and special issue a reality.
The 4th International Hearing Loss Conference was held at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, CA from May 5-9, 2019 thanks in large part to the work of Dr. Stephen Lomber, Marshall Chasin and many others. Larry played a significant role in helping to select invited speakers as well as identifying young, new scientific talent. Conferences require money and Larry was “on it”, emailing, calling and politely cajoling various departments and organizations to cough up the seed funds to get the conference started. Needless to say, his efforts were successful, a testament to his credibility and network of close friends and associates who trust his judgement. Larry was “out in front” at the conference serving as both a moderator and speaker, asking probing questions of presenters and, of course, socializing with old friends and making new acquaintances. The conference was a huge success and after the gala banquet at a winery, Larry and his wife, Marion, drove me back to my hotel. The conference had gone exceedingly well and we were all very pleased and congratulated ourselves with the outcome.
Larry and I worked together for more than two years to prepare the special issue related to the international conference. Fortunately, we completed the special issue prior to the start of the meeting. In the end, we pulled together 19 excellent manuscripts from highly regarded scientists in Europe, Asia and North America. The final product of this efforts appears in the special issue, “Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, Central Gain” in Volume 407 of Neuroscience. Larry played a key role in writing the Introduction to the special issue. With his synthetic mind and clear and cohesive writing style, he was able to paint a comprehensive picture linking together scientific topics ranging from molecular biology to human brain imaging, a testament to his breadth of knowledge and communication skills.
I had the good fortune to work with Larry these past few years. Our collaboration was always collegial, intellectually stimulating, socially rewarding and most of all a lot of fun. His was a life well-lived. We will miss you Larry, but your scientific thoughts and ideas live on with all of us.