Deceased July 13, 2018
We were stunned and saddened to learn that Bruce Wallace succumbed to Lewy body disease on July 13. I was fortunate to room with Bruce and share many courses with him, starting with first-year calculus and later the biophysics curriculum. Both then and now, Bruce evokes superlatives. Bruce was flat-out brilliant. While most of us struggled, he flew through calculus. Pound for pound he may have been one of the best athletes ever at Amherst. An outstanding sprinter, he was also gifted at pole vault and javelin. After graduation, we canoed the Allagash River in northern Maine; it was immediately apparent that Bruce was also a skilled woodsman.
After the biophysics major at Amherst, he completed a Ph.D. in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. While a post-doc at Stanford, Bruce and a mentor, Jack McMahon, learned that motor nerves release signals that organize nerve receptors on muscle and then discovered and named the first such factor (agrin). The importance of this pioneering discovery is reflected in more than 1,000 subsequent papers examining its biology. In 1990, Bruce joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. There he continued his research and played pivotal roles in teaching neuroscience. Bruce’s importance as a teacher was also manifest in a book he co-authored, From Neuron to Brain, now reprinted in several languages, that became one of the most widely read introductions to neuroscience.
While a Ph.D. student, Bruce married Jill Nelson from Vassar. Bruce and Jill had three sons; Bruce was a dedicated family man. Despite his disease, Bruce had moments of clarity and joy throughout his illness, particularly on meeting his fourth grandbaby this June. We extend our condolences to Jill and the family, with the assurance that our deep admiration for Bruce—extraordinary scholar, athlete, teacher, father—will not fade.
Robert H. Brown ’69