Deceased June 28, 2002

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25th Reunion Book Entry


In Memory

Robert David Riskind died on June 28, 2002, at the age of 55, two years after he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

As a member of the Class of ’77, I didn’t meet Bob until long after our Amherst days, when our oldest children were in the same pre-school. At gatherings after nursery school plays and Halloween parties our friendship deepened, and we discovered that we were both psychiatrists and Amherst alumni.

A native of Chicago, Bob distinguished himself as a brilliant student and all-city basketball star before coming to Amherst, where he played basketball and majored in economics. One AD roommate from those years described him as contemplative and an able student.

Bob received his medical degree from Northeastern University in 1975 and did his training in psychiatry in Boston at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Hospital. His private practice focused on children and adolescents, and he held many hospital-based positions, most recently as assistant medical director for inpatient mental health services at the Tufts Health Plan. An enthusiastic and gifted teacher, he taught child psychiatry fellows, residents and medical students, and served as a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

During the last year of his illness, I had a unique opportunity to appreciate firsthand Bob’s extraordinary work as a psychiatrist. When he became unable to continue caring for his patients last September, I covered his practice. While devastated at losing Dr. Riskind as a doctor, patient after patient related to me how much he had helped them with his talents as a therapist, psychopharmacologist and above all with his caring, compassion and humanity.

It was a privilege to have Bob as a friend. His passion, humor and incisive mind made conversation a constant source of pleasure and enrichment. He wore his erudition lightly, just as his gentle manner belied his formidable athletic ability. He was an avid rower, bicyclist and gardener. I remember fondly a weekend when my family visited Bob, his wife Francine Pillemer and their three children, Abigail, 13; Michael, 8; and Carter, 5, at their country home in Whitingham, Vt. Bob loved to spend time with his family in the wonderful rustic setting. He was a devoted husband and a wonderful father who always made his family his first priority. He faced his illness with courage and equinimity and without a trace of self-pity. Many of the people I spoke with at Bob’s memorial service near his home in Newton, Mass.s, on Aug. 4 agreed that how he conducted himself during his final two years was a source of awe and inspiration.

For the memorial service, Bob’s 13-year-old daughter Abigail wrote,

He is my father
A hero to three
For he is all we need
And all we know.

On a sunny day let his
Soul shine through
From up in heaven
And down to you.

He has touched your life
And helped you through
Let him know
He has changed you.

There is no possible way
To repay him for his love,
His trust
He was there when you
Needed him the most.

So I will be there
To hold his hand
Let him know I am there
And that in this way he is
Everywhere.

We all feel a profound sense of loss at Bob’s tragic, premature passing and send our condolences to his widow Francine and his children Abby, Michael and Carter.

David Hoffman ’77

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