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Roy Mark Rubin

Died: June 29, 2014

Roy Rubin was born in New York City on December 11, 1944 to Oscar Rubin and Janet Heller Rubin, M.D. He demonstrated an early affinity for math and science and prepared for college at the Bronx High School of Science. He entered Yale in 1962, where he was a Chemistry Intensive Studies major and was a Ranking Scholar throughout his Yale career. Upon graduation from Yale, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, he entered graduate school at Columbia University, which awarded him the Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry in 1971. Along the way, Roy celebrated in 1967 by marrying his high school sweetheart, Anita Lemkowitz (one student at Bronx Science that may have known more about mathematics than he did), and entering Harvard Medical School in the fall of 1971. Roy was placed in an accelerated program, graduating with the M.D. degree in three years and entering residency training in internal medicine at the Beth Israel Hospital. On completion of his training in 1977, in recognition of his outstanding performance as a resident, Roy was offered a position with the Harvard Community Health Plan, now the Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Roy and Anita moved shortly thereafter from Brookline to Newton, where they lived in the same house for 37 years. Roy and Anita had two sons: Dr. David B. Rubin, Yale ‘96 (wife Amy), and Daniel O. Rubin, Yale ‘00 (wife Julie), who between them have produced five beautiful grandchildren. Roy’s practice was cut short in 2007 by a serious spine infection, but for 30 years his thoughtful, humane approach to problems made him highly sought-after by both patients and colleagues who valued his remarkable diagnostic skills and his warm, empathetic manner of addressing medical problems. Following retirement in 2007, Roy and Anita spent many happy days at their summer home in Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, surrounded by family and friends. In 2012 Roy was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a burden he bore with dignity and grace, finally succumbing on June 29, 2014. He is survived by Anita, his bride and soul mate of 47 years, sons David and Daniel and their wives, and grandchildren Sydney, Nina, Nathaniel, Zachary and Abigail.

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Anita Rubin remembers:

Roy and I met in 1962 when we were teenagers in high school. We were two kids from the Bronx who hadn’t seen much of the world outside of New York City. We dated throughout Roy’s years at Yale, and we married in 1967. I was blessed to share his love and his life all those years.

My gentle giant, he was wise, witty, compassionate, intelligent and endlessly patient. He was funny, he was kind, and he treated everyone with respect. Roy was honest and outspoken but never with any intent to do harm. There were no pretenses with Roy — what you saw was what you got.

Roy was a humble man, never flaunting his many talents. He was a natural teacher and had the ability to explain even the most difficult subjects so that you could understand them. He was a good listener and was always willing to give well thought out advice to anyone who sought him out — sometimes even when they didn‘t ask. As a medical internist he loved the challenge of diagnoses and the satisfaction of finding treatments and remedies for his patients. He was passionate about teaching medical students to not only be good clinicians but to be compassionate, caring people as well.

His greatest joy was his family. When serious back problems abruptly ended his career as a physician in 2007, he found a silver lining. He cherished the added time it gave him to be with all of us, especially with his five adored grandchildren. Many women dread their spouse’s retirement, but I welcomed the years it allowed us to spend time together.

Our summer home in Wellfleet on Cape Cod was his retreat from the everyday stresses of life and work. He enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Wellfleet. His sanctuary was at Long Pond, where he spent his time swimming, reading, meditating, doling out advice and holding court to his family and friends. As a lasting tribute to him we had a bench installed at the place that brought him so much peace and pleasure.

Forever the optimist, Roy was the most positive person I’ve ever known. Roy bore his illness with bravery and dignity. He fought hard to stay with us but lost his two year battle with cancer and left us too soon. His mantra was always “It is what it is.” He was rarely without a smile and his laugh — or rather his chuckle — was infectious and was music to my ears. Even through his most difficult years he kept his wonderful and frequently zany sense of humor.

Roy lived a good life and had no regrets. How many of us can say that? Until the end, he believed he was a lucky man; we are the lucky ones to have known him.

John Westcott remembers:

Roy Rubin was one of the top students in our class and went to Columbia for a Ph.D. in chemistry (’71) and to Harvard Medical School for an M.D. (’74). He practiced his entire career at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, part of the original Harvard Community Health Plan HMO, where he was an internist and primary care physician. He was married in 1967 to Anita Lemkowitz, who attended Bronx Science High School with Roy and graduated from Hunter College in 1967. Anita was Roy’s high school and Yale girlfriend.

As he said in his essay for our 25th Reunion, he thought he would be a chemistry teacher, but while in graduate school pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry “I recognized my desire for a more people-oriented career, and I left chemistry to attend medical school in 1971.”

He had a brilliant career as a physician, and he taught at Harvard Medical School for many years. Hundreds of thankful patients and medical students have benefited from Roy’s choice of career. He and Anita had two sons, David (Yale ’96) and Dan (Yale ’00) and five grandchildren. David practices at Harvard Vanguard as a primary care physician as did his father, and Dan is Director of Guidance at Newton South High School.

Roy had bad luck with his own health. He had a debilitating infection in his back from a dental procedure in 2007 that caused him to retire early from active medical practice; and he contracted kidney cancer in 2013 and died in June, 2014.

Fortunately for me, I got to know Roy through our senior society at Yale and kept in touch with him through the years. In the last ten years, the members of our senior society in the Class of ’66 have gotten together several times a year socially and to discuss issues of life as we did senior year. Roy had a wisdom and judgment that was remarkable, and we all consulted him on our various medical problems. He had a marvelous ability to explain things simply but never condescendingly, although his medical knowledge was vast.

I feel honored to have known Roy. His life was very different from mine, but we shared common interests in education, family, intellectual life, and Yale. Roy, for me, epitomizes the richness of my Yale experience, for I never would have met him but for Yale. Roy was a brilliant and wise man, who observed life from a very different perspective from mine, and I learned much from him over the years. We all miss Roy and his participation in the activities of our senior society, and we all value the opportunity to have known Roy and to have had him as a friend.

John Reid remembers:

Roy and I not only shared a friendship for 52 years but for the last seven years of his life we shared grandchildren. It delighted me to see Roy’s joy as a grandfather, teacher and mentor. After he died, his oldest grandchild, Sydney, observed that Roy had not left us because his heart was broken up into little pieces and shared with all of us whom he loved. It was a fitting tribute to a wonderful man, one whom I dearly miss.

Paul Kiernan remembers:

I never got to know Roy Rubin until my senior year at Yale. Struggling with Introductory Chemistry my senior year, I used to solicit random tutorials from Roy, who was #1 in science our year. Never begrudging me a minute, he taught as well as he learned, effortlessly bringing me along through one insoluble problem after another.

One observation I made which I’ve never seen elsewhere. Upon leaving one of our sessions, I inquired of the at least 50 spiral notebooks, filed along his top shelf, “What are those, Roy?” He replied they were his notes from every course he had ever taken from freshman year on — including art history, european history, …He diligently, and in sequence, re-reviewed these old notes every night, after he finished his current class assignments.

Clearly, in Roy Rubin, unbelievable preparation met high intelligence. I’ve often thought what a great physician he must have made. I am sorry not to be able to see him on our 50th, nor thank him again for his efforts on my behalf.

Steven Shelov remembers:

Roy was my friend from high school days at the Bronx High School of Science and then through Yale. Brilliant science student at high school; we enjoyed just being with each other. He, Anita (his girlfriend then, wife of almost 50 years), and I would often hang out together. We even went to the Prom together. Roy laughed for several of us at once. Always smiling, ready with a huge hug, and always wanting to be sure that you were (I was) okay.

Our years at Yale were similar. We just enjoyed each other whenever we saw each other. Spent many an evening in Pierson with his great friends and roommates. He loved his friends, his future wife, and his chemistry. He could always solve problems in science. No wonder he went on to excel at Harvard, M.D. and Ph.D. outstanding in so many ways, but always the human warmth and relating to others. He cared so much about all those he came in contact with. He deserved to be around much longer than he was.

I certainly miss him, even though we didn’t see each other as much as we would have liked. Family and distance just got in the way. His wonderful family was there for him throughout his years of trials, and I was not surprised. For what he gave to them, they just simply gave a piece of him back. People like Roy Rubin don’t come along very often. I just regret not seeing him more as we grew old together.

Dugald Chisholm remembers:

From my note to Roy’s wife, Anita, after his death from cancer: Me, the country bumpkin from Upstate [New York]. Roy, the brilliant City scientist. The smartest guy I knew. The gentle giant. Maybe the most unassuming man with gifts such as he possessed. A serious guy. A funny guy. He didn’t actively participate in most of our shenanigans, but he tolerated his idiot friends with grace and an occasional subtle sage comment. And boy, did he love you! You two win my personal award for longevity of true love.