It is with deep sadness and a great sense of loss that we learn that Bob Rood passed away as a consequence of the stroke he suffered at the end of October. Bob was at JFK airport while traveling to collaborate with colleagues in Italy. His family, including his wife Marti and his daughters Emilie and Claire, were able to be with him in the hospital in New York prior to his passing.
Bob joined the department in 1973 as an Assistant Professor. He became a full Professor in 1992 and was departmental chair from 1999 through 2006. This was an important time for the department, and Bob's leadership played a crucial role in guiding the process by which the department realized the strategic plan devised in 1998.
After stepping down as Chair in 2006 Bob continued to provide sound council to the department. He was a strong advocate both for the discipline and for the department in particular. It was of great importance to him that the department maintain the high level of collegiality and a sense of family that has characterized it for so many years. He was a consistent and generous donor to the department, always with the request that his donations be used to enhance the life of the department and its members. Department members know that the new picnic tables at Fan were due to Bob, for example.
Bob will also be remembered by the many students whose lives he touched, as an advisor, a mentor, and as a teacher. His course on Life Beyond Earth was a perennial favorite with students, always receiving high evaluations.
Many of us will also remember Bob as an outstanding cook and a great appreciator of fine food and wine (exhibited, for example, by searching for choice morel mushrooms at Fan Mountain picnics), a lover of music, a photographer (his web pages document events within the astronomical world going well back to early in Bob's career), and as someone with a keen sense of humor. The hospitality he showed us at the many parties and gatherings he hosted will long be remembered. He had a great appreciation of the living world which was passed on to his daughters. He was a widely recognized resource for many of us in identifying bugs, birds, mushrooms and mammals. Bob retired just this past spring. He had planned to retire two years earlier, but stayed on during the University's hiring freeze out of a sense of duty, not wanting to leave the department short handed in a difficult time when we would be unable to replace him. In retirement Bob intended to devote more time to his research, which he had had to neglect somewhat in recent years owing to his service to the department and the University.
In his research Bob was one of the world's experts on mass loss in low-mass giant stars. He wrote seminal papers in the 1960s on this topic, and to this day this research remains at the cutting edge. Bob is also known for his work on measuring the cosmic abundance of Helium-3 as an independent indicator of baryonic density during the nucleosynthesis era of the big bang, an important part of today's understanding of cosmology and the universe. Bob's research straddled the boundary between theory and observation. He worked with many observatories, both ground-based and space-based and across the spectrum from radio to ultraviolet.
Bob will be greatly missed by all of us who knew of his strong commitment to astronomy, to the department, to his colleagues and his students.
Chair, Department of Astronomy
University of Virginia