It’s no secret that UNC’s Department of Biology is highly renowned, and that biology is one of the University’s most common majors. Much of the biology department’s current status is owed to one man: former professor and department chair Larry Gilbert, who passed away Monday.
“If there was one person to point to that made biology the powerhouse it is now, he’s the one who did that,” professor Kerry S. Bloom said.
Bloom was Gilbert’s first hire in his position as chair of the biology department. He served as a mentor for many professors that came through the University, some of who have gone on to win the most prestigious prizes in the world of science. Gilbert was brought in from Northwestern University to oversee the merging of the school’s botany and zoology departments.
“He was recruited to come and make that happen. He was an inspirational leader; he was visionary,” said Victoria L. Bautch, chair of the department. “He was able to look ahead and think about what kind of faculty to hire that would grow the reputation of the department and grow the research profile of the department and bring in good teachers for the students as well.”
In 1995, Gilbert’s accomplishments as a mentor were honored with the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement.