Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm by Darryl
Let me say a few words about my friend and valued colleague Michael Grimes.
Mike and I met as postdoctoral fellows at Penn State in the late 1990s. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in a friendly debate about the underlying mechanisms of postpartum amenorrhea. Yet, we found a common interest in human reproductive ecology (a field within biological anthropology), and our differences of opinion led us to collaborate on finding answers. Our first publication was literally written together—both of us sitting in front of the computer writing and revising, sentence by sentence. It was a paper on the initiation of breastfeeding and colostrum feeding practices in a rural area of Bangladesh. Academic papers have a long gestation period, and this one was finally published in the Journal of Biosocial Sciences in 2001. It was the first of four peer-reviewed papers we published together.
In 1999, I moved to the University of Washington to start a new position as an assistant professor. Two years later, Mike took a position at Western Washington University. In retrospect, we didn’t make use of our geographic proximity nearly enough. But I did go up to WWU to work with Mike on occasion, and even gave a guest lecture for him once. Mike occasionally visited us and gave seminars talks, but with a growing young family, the visits became less frequent.
Two years ago, we had our first joint research grant funded. With colleagues, we are developing new biomarker tools and statistical methods for addressing that early debate we had about the mechanisms of postpartum amenorrhea. I flew up to Bellingham last June, and Mike and I spent the day working on that project and completed a manuscript.
On Tuesday, I got an email from Mike requesting a letter to support his sabbatical proposal. He wanted to use a one-quarter sabbatical for writing a follow-up grant application that would apply the new biomarker and statistical tools. Such letters can be difficult; this was one of the easiest I’ve ever written:
This letter is to confirm my commitment to continued collaboration with you, and to express my willingness to work with you in developing your new project in Winter 2011. This new work will build on our currently funded research to develop biomarkers and statistical tools for understanding the energetics of lactation and the mechanism of post-partum amenorrhea in breastfeeding women. For the proposed project, our newly-developed endocrine and analytical tools will be deployed on a large scale to investigate postpartum amenorrhea in a new sample of breastfeeding women.
We have had a very productive collaboration for the past decade, and I very much look forward to continued collaboration in this new research.
I attached it dressed up in letter head as a pdf and asked if it was what he wanted. Within minutes, he responded:
That is the last I heard from Mike. Yesterday he suffered an aneurism and died.
When I think of Mike, the words “gentle” and “kind” come to mind. Any aggression he might have had was released through his passions for playing soccer and ultimate frisbee and drumming with Liverball back in the day. His greatest passion was his family—his wife Tammy and their three children.
Mike was a good man.
(Update: The WWU community remembers Mike.)