OT: A few days ago I found out my friend Bob Swanson had died at the age of 52. Bob was a co-founder of Genentec and was responsible for making lives better for perhaps millions of people.
The synthesis of human insulin, human growth hormone, and a drug that restores blood flow after heart attacks were just a few of the many successes for which his company was responsible. He was named one of the 1000 important figures of the millennium, as the "entrepreneur who launched the biotechnology revolution." *
I met Bob at Miami Springs Junior High. We were in the same mechanical drawing class. He was one of the "brains" of the ninth grade Class of '61. But more than that, he was a warm and gentle, soft spoken guy. If you looked up the word 'nice' in the dictionary, Bob's picture would be there.
In high school we drifted apart as he pursued science and I pursued art, but we were able to come together as members of the German Honor Society. He came to my home for the annual party in 1965. After that, we spoke after school several times while I waited for the bus. He was friendly and caring, always.
Three years later, Bob was home for the summer from MIT and he gave me a call. That was the last I heard from my friend. At the age of 27 he had his now-historic meeting with Dr. Herbert Boyer, his future business partner. At the same age, I had a life-altering experience, too. I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time and my eyes were opened by the majesty of it all. I wanted to paint and photograph, which I considered noble, and Bob wanted to take genetic engineering to the marketplace and help millions of people. I think Bob won the toss on that one.
Eight years ago, my friend succumbed to brain cancer. He had changed the lives of countless numbers of people for the better, and the irony that he was unable to help himself is overwhelming.
* Book, 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium, authors Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Henry Gottlieb, Barbara Bowers and Brent Bowers.