To read a message by UTB President Juliet V. García, click here
To watch Dr. Colom’s 2012 Expert of the Month video, click here
Gathers to Remember Beloved Friend, Scientist, Visionary
Friends greet Maria Colom, wife of Dr. Luis Colom, at the gathering in El Gran Salon.
Dr. Alan F. J. Artibise, Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs, began the memorial service, making note of a jar filled with
almonds atop the podium signifying Colom’s ever-present desktop jar of almonds
that he shared with everyone, the flickering candles in Colom’s favorite color
of light blue signifying serenity, and the promise of Colom’s favorites,
barbecue brisket and pistachio ice cream, to be enjoyed after the service.
Martin, Provost Emeritus, spoke of Colom’s pride in his children, Cecelia and
Sebastian, who sat in the front row with their mother, Maria.
was proud of his students,” Martin said. “Even when he was in the hospital, he
worried about not being in the lab helping with all the work that the students
shared a poem by Spanish poet Miguel Hernández, written in 1936:
a Ramón Sijé”
las aladas almas de las rosas
del almendro de nata te requiero,
que tenemos que hablar de muchas cosas,
compañero del alma, compañero.
collaborated with Dr. Charles Dameron, retired Professor and former Vice
President for Academic Affairs, on the translation:
the winged souls of the blossoms
the almond tree I entrust you,
we have much to still talk about,
of my soul, my dearest friend.
Dr. Hermes Hsiao-mei Yeh, Department Chair and Professor
of Physiology and Neurobiology at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of
Medicine, said Colom was devoted to students.
such presence and leadership qualities; he understood that people are the most
important assets,” Yeh said. “He was the pied piper for scientists on this
campus. The people that he has recruited have worked together with a common
vision to put UTB on the map as an exemplary institution that will soon have a
personal perspective, I will miss his smile, his winks and almost childlike
enthusiasm – and those big bear hugs,” Yeh said.
Attendees gather together after a memorial celebrating the life of Dr. Luis Colom.
Dr. Emilio Garrido, Assistant Professor of
Neuroscience and Gene Therapy, spoke of Colom’s dedication to his research to
unlock the mysteries of memory – how humans gain memory, trace and keep memory,
and how Alzheimer’s destroys memory.
last moment, he was positive and optimistic, maintaining his dream for students
to be engaged in research early in their educations, with the hope that they
might later become scientists with the same eagerness that he felt,” Garrido
the light moments of the evening, Garrido shared some humorous memories of
Colom, as well as addressing Colom’s hope for a recently submitted grant to the
National Institutes of Health.
the principal investigator on the grant, and he was worried about not being
there with us to finish everything and submit it,” Garrido said. “For Luis, the
grant was important for the opportunity it would give our students, and to help
increase diversity in the biomedicine work force.”
said this was the first grant submitted as a team in collaboration with
colleagues at The University of Texas – Pan American.
a lot of hope in this grant, and we know Luis was here with us until the last
moment when we delivered it to FedEx,” he said. “Getting this submitted was a
big accomplishment in his honor.”
Colom’s tenure the number of biology majors increased from 131 in 2001 to more
than 800 this year. His students have gone on to pursue doctoral degrees at
prestigious schools such as Harvard and UT Medical Branch in Galveston. They
have become professionals throughout the health sciences as researchers,
physicians and physical therapists.
Dr. Cristina Bañuelos dedicated her doctoral dissertation to Dr. Luis Colom.
Colom’s students, Dr. Cristina Bañuelos, is a 2014 graduate of the College of
Medicine at the University of Florida with a doctoral degree in neuroscience. A
Brownsville native, she earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University
before returning home to begin her graduate work at UT Brownsville. Under Dr.
Colom’s mentoring, she took a job in his lab and found her calling. She earned
her master’s degree in biology and continued her work at the doctoral level,
consulting with Dr. Colom all along the way.
were always welcome in Dr. Colom’s office,” Bañuelos said. “He was always interested
in providing input. He set the standard for the type off mentor I aspire to
said Colom instilled confidence in his students and gave them a sense of
dedicated my dissertation to Dr. Colom,” Bañuelos said. “He believed in our
potential, and because he believed it, we believed it.”
Dr. Juliet V. García, UTB President, spoke about
recruiting Colom from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She convinced him
that UTB needed him and that he would be able to bring in bright scientists and
build a competitive biomedical research program.
García spoke of Colom’s sense of urgency, his perseverance in working toward a
cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating diseases; to build capacity
for the research through grants, personally attracting more than $13 million to
the university; and an urgency to recruit the best students and launch them
towards careers of their own.
of this, Luis accomplished so much during his time with us,” García said. “But
it was never without deliberation, care and attention to detail. His work was
grounded in compassion and a need to help his fellow man.”