John Bertram's legacyBill Dennison ·
John Bertram passed away last week in Brisbane, Australia. John and Sue Bertram were two of the first people that Judy and I met when I joined the Botany Department in 1992. John and Sue were one of the reasons I so very much enjoyed my decade at the University of Queensland. John was the department histologist and Sue was the department secretary. When they found out that Judy was pregnant while we were overseas on study leave, Sue took it upon herself to sign us up for the various child care facilities on campus so that we would have a slot waiting. This is just one of the examples of the thoughtfulness that John and Sue often displayed.
I especially enjoyed catching up with John at tea breaks or at the end of the day. John always had a twinkle in his eye and we enjoyed each other's company. When I witnessed a bucket of water accidentally poured over the head of the department administrative officer, John was the first person I told, because I knew that he would enjoy the story so much. I also enjoyed watching John with his son Julian when John would bring him along at the end of the day.
I loved the way that John was able to really connect with students. He quietly guided them in sample preparation and various analyses, and our marine botany group was able to conduct a variety of morphological assessments with John's guidance. These morphology measurements provided a nice complement with the various ecophysiological measurements that we conducted. I am convinced that this combination of morphology and physiology would not have been possible without John, and an enduring legacy is a suite of well cited papers in which John played a key role.
John's legacy goes beyond the scientific publications that he played a role in producing. Universities are at the core a place of learning, and young people spend years of their lives learning about a particular subject, but also learning how to learn. This is where John truly excelled. John's classroom was his histology lab and the students under his tutelage learned how to really do science. John also served as an informal advisor to many students, helping them navigate the process of obtaining a degree. John's legacy is in those students whose lives he touched over the many years that John was associated with the University of Queensland.
About the author
Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.