Harris Ripps, PhD, DSc, FARVO, passed away Thursday, Sept. 18, at the age of 87. He and his wife Jeanne lived in Boca Raton, Florida.
At the time of his death, Dr. Harris Ripps was Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and former director of the Laboratory of Retinal Physiology and Neurobiology in the Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute. Dr. Ripps held joint appointments in the departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Physiology and Biophysics in the UIC College of Medicine.
Dr. Ripps began his studies at Columbia University where he received his MS, MA and PhD. He was appointed Assistant Professor at New York University School of Medicine in 1960. Soon after he was awarded a National Institute of Health (NIH) Special Fellowship to study retinal photochemistry at the University of London. As a result of the research conducted there and on his return to NYU, he received a Research Career Development Award from the US Public Health Service that launched a brilliant academic career spanning more than four decades. His NIH National Eye Institute (NEI) R01 award, “Visual Adaptation in the Vertebrate Retina,” was funded from 1975 through 1985 at New York University and then from 1986 through 2007 at UIC , making it one of NEI’s longest continually funded research programs. Throughout his career, Dr. Ripps was recognized for his contributions to our understanding of the cellular basis of inherited retinal disorders, the structural and functional properties of retinal neurons and glia, and the mechanisms of inter-cellular communication via chemical and electrical synapses. He received some of the most prestigious international and national awards in vision science. Among the most noteworthy are the Edrige-Green Award of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Alcon Research Institute’s highly selective Award of Excellence. He was a Research to Prevent Blindness Senior Scientific Investigator. In 1982 Dr. Ripps received the prestigious Proctor Medal from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) and in 1986 served as ARVO president. Dr. Ripps was both an ARVO Silver and ARVO Gold Fellow.
Dr. Ripps came to UIC in 1985. During his tenure here he was elected a University Scholar, received the University of Illinois Presidential Award, and the University’s Distinguished Faculty Award. Dr. Ripps was a Distinguished University Professor who held the Charles I. Young / Lions of Illinois Endowed Chair of Ocular Research from 1992 until his retirement from UIC in 2009. Upon his retirement Dr. Ripps formally thanked his mentors, the chairmen he served under, his wife of more than 60 years, his many colleagues at UIC and especially his collaborator, Dr. Haohua Qian and Jane Zakevicius, his faithful and competent research assistant of 40 years.
David Pepperberg, PhD, Searls-Schenk Professor in Ophthalmology. “In Harris’ passing, we have lost an exceptional scientist and beloved friend. It was my great privilege to know Harris for almost 40 years as a mentor and colleague, and to experience first-hand his keen intellect, charm, and deep devotion to family and friends. Harris’ passion for learning and beauty in science, art and music leaves a legacy that we will long remember with gratitude and admiration.”
Deepak Shukla, Marion H. Schenk Esq. Professor in Ophthalmology for Research of the Aging Eye, Professor of Ophthalmology, Microbiology and Immunology. “Dr. Ripps was an excellent colleague and a great scholar. I was particularly amazed by the depth of his knowledge and his eagerness to share it. For many years until his retirement I enjoyed our morning chats in LIERI where we had neighboring offices. I will always remember his loud and clear voice that made some of the most intriguing problems of vision science an easy to understand issue.”
Mahnaz Shahidi, Vice Chair, Morton F. Goldberg MD Professor in Ophthalmology, Professor of Physics in Ophthalmology. “Dr. Ripps’ insight, depth of knowledge, and passion for research enriched our department for many years. His support of graduate students and junior faculty made him a role model for many researchers. We will remember him by his vast contributions to vision science research, as a collegial and gracious colleague.”
Additional tributes may be sent to Laurie Walker, [email protected].