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Dr. Robert R. Marshak and fellow deans of Penn Vet

In Remembrance of Dr. Robert R. Marshak

The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine has announced that Dean Emeritus Robert R. Marshak died peacefully overnight at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse. He was 97. 

On this page, please find memories, sympathies, and remembrances from Dr. Marshak's family, friends, colleagues, and our alumni.

Would you like to contribute to this page? Please submit your memory, tribute, or good wishes here

Robert R. Marshak Memorial Fund

Make a gift today

In support of the Farm of the Future initiatives and renovations/reconstruction of the Marshak Dairy to further agricultural sustainability.

Gifts by Mail: Please mail your gift to Penn Vet Office of Institutional Advancement, 3800 Spruce St., Suite 151E, Phila, PA 19104, "ATTN: Marshak Memorial Gifts"

A Great Man Who Lived a Great Life

Dr. Harry Werner, VMD

“As a student, I intuitively sensed Dr. Marshak's stature as a leader in our profession.

"Over the decades as a practitioner, I acquired a much greater understanding and appreciation of his impact on PennVet and our profession. I came to realize the unique quality of the faculty he enlisted and the value of his innovations such as the core-elective curriculum and the One Health Initiative.

"Finally, even in his final years, he generously offered his time, advice and counsel when asked. Dr. Robert Marshak was a great man who lived a great life."

Harry W. Werner, VMD

He Was a Visionary

"Dr. Marshak was one of the special faculty members, in the 1960’s, who truly supported women who wanted to pursue large animal medicine. He was one of my mentors in my plan to work with cattle. We kept in touch for years as he enjoyed hearing tales of my Practice and life in Alaska. Later, it was gratifying to read his many perceptive contributions to our professional literature. He persisted in trying to guide veterinary medicine to be all it could be. He was a visionary." 

Judith B. Harvey, VMD

A Wonderful Man

"We were saddened to hear of Bob Marshak’s death. Though we had not seen him for many years his influence on my own career, as well as on veterinary education and the development of the veterinary profession, was profound.

"We met Bob in 1969 when I came to NBC as a new graduate and for the next ten years he served as mentor and support for my fledgling career. He created opportunities for me which set me on a path I had not imagined and, without him, would not have known how to take.

"We also remember with great appreciation his interest in Sue’s graduate work. Although our lives subsequently diverged, and my career took me around the world, Bob’s influence on it was never far beneath the surface.

"Our sincere condolences go to Margo and the family for the loss of a wonderful man." 

Simon and Sue Kenyon

He Loved Being a Veterinarian

John Lewis, V'97"I interacted only a handful of times with Dean Marshak during my years as a student, resident and faculty member.

"I had the opportunity to provide dental care to his beloved dog, and being a small breed dog with the inevitable periodontal disease that small breed dogs are prone to develop, this allowed us to meet at least once a year for a portion of my time at Penn.

"It was always a pleasure to work with Dean Marshak. He was inspiring in his level of interest and involvement in the ongoings of the profession, well into the latest stages of his life. He truly loved being a veterinarian, and it showed in everything he did for Penn and for the profession." 

John Lewis 'V97

Changing the World for the Better

“Dr. Bob Marshak was a great friend and colleague of my late Dad, Lord Soulsby. My Dad would recount tales of visits to Canada, swimming despite all the mosquitoes and much more, but more importantly, their combined love of science and teaching.

During what must have been one their last on-line conversations, they both agreed when Bob said 'We changed the world for the better, didn't we Lawson?'

'Very muchly so,' was my Dad's reply. Dr. Marshak will be missed by many. K." 

Kate Bulloch

Drs. Marshak, Soulsby, Antczak - 1985 
Douglas F. Antczak, VMD (1973), PhD Dorothy Havemeyer McConville Professor of Equine Medicine Baker Institute for Animal Health College of Veterinary Medicine Cornell University Photo sent separately of Bob Marshak, Lawson Soulsby, and Doug Antczak in London, circa 1985.

Mentor, Friend, Inspiration

“For the past 50 years Bob Marshak was a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration to me. During my time as a student at Penn in the early 1970s I remember observing Bob in a surgical gown working on his bovine leukemia project, and in a formal suit delivering an emotional eulogy for Dr. Jacques Jenny.

"Bob counseled me to seek scientific training at the highest level possible in preparation for an academic career, even if it meant leaving the environment of veterinary medicine for a time. It was good advice. I was fortunate to secure a Thouron Scholarship for PhD study at Cambridge, and that experience set the course of my life in new directions.

"Upon returning to the US and a position at Cornell’s Baker Institute for Animal Health, I developed a new relationship with Bob, through his service as a member of the Institute’s Advisory Council. Bob’s sage counsel continued to guide me during my term as Institute Director.

"How lucky I feel to have known this great man for so long!"

Douglas F. Antczak, V'73, PhD

Mentor, Advisor, True Friend

Bob and Ralph at National Medal of Science Veterinary School  Reception 2011

“Bob and I came to the School of Veterinary Medicine the same year, 1956. He came from an extensive bovine practice in Vermont to be Professor of Medicine and soon after Chair of the Department of Medicine. I was leaving military service after a tour of duty in Korea during the combat period to be a first-year student.

"Bob had a vision of where veterinary medicine should be going and the talent and energy to lead a number of young faculty at the School to pursue his vision of a strong academic profession with evidence-based decisions in clinical medicine and in basic science. His leadership was transformational, and the School was invigorated and quickly became an academic institution that led the profession into a new era.

"Bob’s role in this transformation should not be underestimated or underrecognized, and it changed me from a student who planned to become a general practitioner to one interested in research, which I subsequently pursued. Therefore, I have always regarded Bob as a mentor, advisor, and true friend who changed my life.

"I was very lucky in my research career in having great students and brilliant colleagues whose talents led to recognition by President Obama awarding our research the 2010 National Medal of Science. It was the first National Medal of Science recognizing veterinary school-based research and only the eighth awarded to a University of Pennsylvania faculty member in 50 years. I attribute this success not only to my talented colleagues but also very much to Bob Marshak’s leadership and mentoring, and it has been my pleasure to always recognize and acknowledge Bob’s role in this achievement.

"Countless other students and graduates who have gone into many endeavors have similarly been affected and enriched by Bob’s advice and wisdom, for which we are all grateful."

Ralph Brinster, VMD, PhD

Great Man, Superb Leader

Dr. James Orsini, New Bolton Center“Dean Robert Marshak simply was a GREAT MAN! Dr. Marshak had a vision of what veterinary medicine should be and facilitated this vision by providing opportunities for academicians, veterinarians, scientists, and many others in reaching their full potential all the time.

"A superb leader who will be deeply missed and leaving a legacy for others to follow."

James Orsini, DVM

A Remarkable Dean

“He was a remarkable dean, gentleman and scholar. When I was a student, he was a good sport on our last day of clinics. Our profession and the school were made better through his efforts." 

Donna Korvick, VMD

An Incredible Mentor

Alexandra Crooks-Dean Robert & Margo Marshak

“Growing up, Dr. Marshak was a family friend.  But over the years, he became an incredible mentor to me. He inspired me through his persistence to get into veterinary school, his clinical work as a veterinarian, his leadership as a dean, and his advocacy for high quality veterinary education.

"Having recently completed my residency and started my professional veterinary career, I will always aspire to practice medicine in a way that makes Dr. Marshak proud. I am grateful for everything he taught me and the example that he set. I will always remember his presence at two of the most important milestones in my life -- my graduation from veterinary school and my wedding. Sending love to Margo and the rest of the Marshak family. With sympathy..."

Alexandra Crooks, V'16

Drs. A. Crook and R. Marshak

A True Renaissance Luminary

“We send condolences from our family to Dean Marshak’s family at this sad time of loss...I will always remember him as one of the very few true renaissance luminaries in our field and for his tireless efforts to raise the educational standards and image of veterinary medicine in parity with those of our human medicine and physician colleagues. Thank you Dr. in peace." 

Steven W. Atwood, VMD, MPH, MD

Reunion 2018

Dr. and Mrs. Marshak and Dr. Gus Aguirre

“On the occasion of the May 2018 Alumni Reunion, I walked Bob and Margo back to their car. Bob apologized to me for being awkward. I replied that he was always awkward, but this time, it was physical!" 

Gus Aguirre, V'68, PhD

We'll Never Forget

“The class of V'66 will never forget your down-to-earth lectures and New England stories of udder insufflation in the middle of the night. Nor will I for our frequent contacts during my years of international veterinary work." 

Al Sollod, V'66

A Second Father

“Dr Marshak, he was an inspiration, a second father to me, a friend, a very close friend of my family. It is an honor to have had him in my life. I will always be his 'Lil Iodine.'

"Bob, you will be missed." 

Debbie Abt, VMD

A Gentleman and a Scholar

Dr. Oliver Garden, Penn Vet“I had learned of Dean Emeritus Robert Marshak's deteriorating health in the past week, but the news of his passing still came as a very sad shock.

"I knew Bob for only four years, but in that time I had grown very fond of him. Bob was a gentleman and scholar of the very highest caliber – quite simply a sparkling luminary in veterinary medicine who truly made the world a better place with his incisive intellect, good humor, generosity of spirit, and indefatigability.

"He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and close friends."

Warm regards,  

Oliver Garden, BVetMed, PhD

His Infamous Humor

“Very sorry to hear of Dr. Marshak's  passing.  At 97, he certainly lived a long and good life.  My many memories of him include the notes from his lectures having huge gaps in them from his continuing to lecture while the entire class was breaking up in laughter. 

"I assisted him in surgery when he castrated the famous neighborhood African lion, Leo.  The press crowded around him after surgery and asked how the surgery went.  He, in his infamous humor told the press that the first testicle was easy but the next two were very difficult. The infamous press wrote everything for the Philadelphia Inquirer word for word." 

Warren D. Myers, V'65

A Lifetime of Love & Dedication

Dr. Andrew Hoffman, Penn Vet“Dean Marshak’s accomplishments as Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine are surpassed only by his unwavering love and dedication to our community," said the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Andrew M. Hoffman, DVM, DVSc. “He worked tirelessly to redefine the veterinary profession and he is unquestionably the ‘Father of Veterinary Clinical Specialties’. Dr. Marshak will be greatly missed; by his adoring family, by the veterinarians and scientists who respected him so deeply, and by his extraordinary network of cherished friends and colleagues." 

Dean Andrew Hoffman, DVM, DVSc

He Changed the Lives of Students

“Not only did he influence and change the face of veterinary medicine but he influenced and changed the lives of so many students. I am honored to have worked with him and been a student during his tenure as Dean. He will be missed but not forgotten." 

Nadine Oakley 'V78

"Marshak's Folly"

Dodson and Hedrick_0“I have fond memories of Bob Marshak. I owe him for my 46-year career at Penn Vet.

"I applied for a position at Penn Vet in the spring of 1974. Bob did me the honor of attending my seminar, even though I was an absolute nobody. I didn’t get job I interviewed for, but Bob was of the opinion that I should be hired anyway. So I was.

"That was 46-1/2 years ago. I always consider myself 'Marshak’s folly!' He always took an interest in my career and I don’t think he ever repented of hiring me. I am forever grateful to Bob.

"Rest well, dear Friend!" 

Peter Dodson, PhD

Amazing Thirst for Life

Mary Berger“Dr. Marshak played a huge role in making Penn Vet what it is today. For that we are all truly grateful. He had an amazing thirst for life and was an inspiration to all of us. His strong spirit will be missed but never forgotten." 

Mary Berger

A Giant in Our Profession

“I would like to offer my condolences to Margo and the rest of the Marshak family on the passing of a giant in our profession. I have a few connections with Dr. Marshak. 

"My father was in the class behind Dr. Marshak at Cornell and he was hired by Dr. Marshak to join the microbiology department of the veterinary school in 1959. 

"Dr. Marshak was the dean during my time as a student at the veterinary school and I remember his tireless efforts to control the cost of our veterinary education. 

"But my most memorable connection has been the friendship I have been able to have with Dr. Marshak and Margo the past five years because of Margaret Leardi. Dr. Marshak and I have had many conversations about the state of veterinary medicine, private veterinary practice and veterinary medical education.  These were extensions of the work he did with my father prior to his passing in 2010.

"I am blessed and fortunate to be able to say that Dr Marshak and Margo are my friends." 

Steve Prier, VMD

In Awe

“Sending my condolences to Dr. Marshak’s loved ones. I am in awe reading about everything he accomplished in his lifetime. As a first year student at the vet school, I recognize that the quality of training that I am receiving and the state of the field I am entering are due in large part to Dr. Marshak." 

Penn Vet Student (Anonymous), V'24

Making My Dreams Come True

Kathy Trow, VMD“I met Dr. Marshak the year that I was applying to vet school (1990). He and my grandfather had been colleagues and worked together on a budget for VHUP years prior when he was Dean. My grandfather was a business man and I believe they had met through a mutual acquaintance. Anyway, Dr. Marshak took me out to lunch (sushi) and told me all about vet school and the application process. We had such a good time, we met twice more just for fun. He was a kind and funny man. Thank you, Dr. Marshak, for helping make my dreams come true." 

Kathy Trow, VMD

His Legacy Lives On

Steven Kelly, V'23“My condolences to the Marshak Family. As a member of PennVet V’23 and a future vet, I cannot express the impact Dr. Marshak has and will continue to have on my life. His legacy lives on through every PennVet grad!" 

Steven Kelly, V'23

The Pursuit of Excellence

Meggan Hain, DVM“I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Marshak while helping to manage the UPenn teaching dairy which bears his name. At the time he had been retired for many years but was still engaged and interested in the profession and the pursuit of excellence." 

Meggan Hain, DVM

A Gifted Leader

Alan M. Kelly, BVSc, MRCVS, PhD“Dean Mark Allam appointed Bob Marshak, a 33 year-old, opera-loving, dairy practitioner from Vermont, as professor of Medicine, and later, as head of the School’s Department of Medicine,” said Alan M. Kelly, BSc, BVSc, PhD, who served as the School’s eleventh dean from 1994 to 2005. “It was a remarkably bold and astute move, for Bob was a gifted leader who played a seminal role in transforming the quality of animal health care and modernizing veterinary medicine not only at Penn, but for the profession of veterinary medicine across the globe. Under his leadership the concept of clinical specialties took root and flourished. The School became the #1 veterinary school in the U.S. as Bob defined the School’s enduring reputation for excellence in research and evidence-based medicine. He is fondly remembered for his dazzling accomplishment, but also for his compassion, and boundless generosity. We all loved him.”

Dean Emeritus Alan M. Kelly, BSc, BVSc, PhD

Great Educator, Scientist & Leader

“The world has lost a great educator, scientist and leader. He was a great friend with whom one never had enough time. Under his direction the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine became the premier institution in North America. My deepest sympathy for his family.." 

Arthur Whereat 

Visionary, Mentor, Friend

“Bob Marshak was foremost a visionary who was instrumental in steering veterinary education, research and practice into the modern world. In the process, he brought great distinction to Penn.

"He was also an inspiring mentor who launched the academic career of innumerable individuals through encouragement, challenge, compassion, provision of resources and example. I was fortunate enough to be among them during the 1960's and 70's; they were exciting times.

Beyond this, his interests were protean, ranging from politics to opera to art to wine, to which he brought a prodigious memory. And, in discussions with him on these subjects and more, repartee was always a part. Through this a lasting friendship began.

"In 1978, I joined a startup faculty at the new Veterinary College at the University of Florida and for the next 35 years my contacts with Bob were, unfortunately for me, few and far between. But his inspiration and vision were always close at hand.

"After retirement and a move back to Philadelphia, the friendship picked up through marvelous lunch dates involving Nancy and me with him and Margo. Repartee was still definitely in play and now included whose turn it was to pay for the meal. I swear that's what kept him going for those 97 years. And I'll bet he's still at it, just in a different setting.

"Peace be with you old mentor and dear friend. I already miss you a lot.."

Al Merritt, DVM

Deepest Condolences

“My deepest condolences to Dean Marshak’s family and to the veterinary community."

Karen Brockman, VMD

You Are So Missed

Margaret Leardi, Penn Vet“My deepest sympathies to the Marshak family, to the extended Penn Vet family, and to the veterinary community on the loss of a great human.

"Dr. Marshak was such an inspiration to me (and innumerable others,) and taught me so much about Penn Vet, veterinary medicine, and the importance of good research. My thoughts are with Margo – our amazing, strong, and wise friend – and Alfie, whom I know is missing his buddy.

"Dr. Marshak, it's a comfort to know that you now have unlimited access to research journals, past Bellwethers, Verdi, good rum, and Apple Pie! You are so missed already..."

Margaret Leardi

A Science-Based Profession

“Dean Marshak addressed the NYSVMS board of directors just a few years ago to educate us about the accreditation of veterinary colleges. He admonished us to be cautious that veterinary medicine not be allowed to devolve into a trade. His passion for the science-based learned profession he and his generation built and that we have since enjoyed never died and never will. May his memory always be a blessing." 

Robert Weiner, V'80

A Vigorous, Competent & Thoughtful Individual

“In 1980 Dr. Marshak asked me for a recommendation in support of renewal of his appointment as dean of Penn's Vet School.  Here is the letter that I was honored to write on his behalf:

 richard lambertsen

TO: The Committee on the Review of the Deanship

FROM: Richard H. Lambertsen, VMD '79

DATE: May 13, 1980

During the six years that I have trained at the University's School of Veterinary Medicine, I have come to know Dr. Marshak in several spheres of his relationship to our School, its students, and its faculty.

As a student, I have admired Dr. Marshak as an astute and scientifically based clinician and teacher sincerely interested in the progress of his students in veterinary medicine.  As his academic advisee, I value highly his enthusiastic, moral and intellectual support.  He has been thoughtfully critical in his judgement of my research.  As a member of the Admissions Committee, I was impressed with ease, frankness and grace with which he discussed or debated the sometimes sensitive issues of the admissions process.  Lastly, as a lecturer and participant in the Aquavet Program, and a member of its advisory committee I have found Dean Marshak anxious to support the development of new programs that meaningfully expand the breadth and improve the quality of his School as a teaching and learning institution.

Throughout these encounters, I have developed a feeling of confidence that the important concerns of this School, relating to its Central Administration, its relations with the State, Nation and world, as well as its internal policy, are being guided by a vigorous, competent and thoughtful individual whose actions are based upon strong and noble principles.

Dr. Marshak has my unqualified support as Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania."

R. H. Lambertsen, VMD '79, PhD '80

"Bob Marshak's School"

Dr. Joan Hendricks, Penn Vet“I attended the School of Veterinary Medicine from 1974 to 1980 when it was ‘Bob Marshak’s School’”, said Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD, who served as the School’s twelfth dean from 2006 to 2018. “I was specifically there to be trained in the pioneering VMD-PhD program. His brilliance and innovation were palpable. Those he affected are legion. Throughout my time at Penn, all 44 years, the professoriate was proud of what was accomplished under his leadership. As dean, it was my special honor that, in collaboration with his wife Margo and others, we were able to get him to accept a celebration of his career with luminaries such as former University Provost Dr. Vartan Gregorian and others. True to his origins as a bovine veterinarian, he was genuinely touched by the dairy calf, ‘Bobby’, who was the big gift for this occasion. He transformed the profession and remained both proud and passionate about quality veterinary science training throughout his life.”

Dean Emeritus Joan Hendricks, VMD/PhD