Month: January 2024

We remember our colleague and friend Dr. Robert Cone

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Robert (Bob) Cone, a great friend and colleague to so many at UConn Health. First and foremost, Bob was a native New Yorker, who had the indominable spirit of his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. After having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brooklyn College, he uprooted himself – like the baseball team – to greener educational pastures. His inaugural stop was Tallahassee and Florida State University, where he obtained a Master of Science degree. He then proceeded west to Ann Arbor, to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Continuing his scholastic journey, Bob reversed geographical course and next headed as far east as one could go, to Melbourne, Australia and the prestigious Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research. There, he completed post-doctoral training under the tutelage of eminent researchers Sir Gustav Nossal and Nobel Laureate Sir Macfarlane Burnet. At every step of the way, Bob distinguished himself in all endeavors, leaving behind an early trail of accomplishments that would presage an illuminating professional career.

Professional accolade was first to come at Yale, in the department of Pathology and Surgery, where he became Director of the Histocompatibility Laboratory, and the school’s first Director of the Graduate Program in Immunology. Anecdotally, it was during his Yale tenure that Bob’s remarkable acuity led him to appreciate the significance of secreted subcellular structures that had previously garnered little attention, but subsequently burgeoned into the field of “extracellular vesicles.”  But it was after his move to UConn Health that Bob added new dimensions to his principal legacy.  It was here that he edified scores of students and post-docs – and, yes, faculty too!  Bob could rightfully claim being parent to the newly born field of neuroimmunology, having been among the earliest to recognize the immune privileged microenvironment of the eye, which is an outgrowth of the brain.  He later pioneered investigation of the role of the sympathetic nervous system in regulating immune activity, a relationship that, among other things, heralds new vistas in cancer immunotherapy.  In true allegiance to the etymology of the word, collegial, Bob possessed an incomparable ethos of academic spirit that triumphed over the exhausting nature of competitive science.  He met all questions to him with a unique mixture of scholarship and humor, and was never at a loss for time in congenially assisting others, no matter their position on the institutional totem pole.

Among his many awards and honors, Bob was recognized by Continental Who’s Who for being an “Outstanding Professor of Immunology.” He also was the recipient of a public service award in his capacity as Commissioner of the State of Connecticut Commission on Medicolegal Investigations.  In light of his respected expertise, Bob served on various review committees for The National Institutes of Health, The National Science Foundation, and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Bob Cone was a scientist for all seasons.

His memory and influence will endure in all those fortunate to have interacted with him.

He is survived by his wife Michele, his daughters Jennifer Ruth, Laura Cone, their husbands Bill Ruth, Peter Plano and his son Josh, and granddaughters Eleanor and Cordelia.

The family would like to extend their thanks to the UConn Health physicians and staff for their compassionate care.

Joel S. Pachter, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Immunology

Dr. Robert Cone