Dr. Robert W. Harrison, III, M.D., beloved husband and scholar, passed away Monday, May 3 at the age of 81.
Born in Mississippi on October 13th, 1941, Harrison was an accomplished scholar and academic.
He was Professor of Medicine, Director of Endocrinology/Metabolism at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Professor of Medicine and the Chief of the Endocrine Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Dr. Harrison is survived by his wife of 38 years, Dr. Gayle Harrison, Ph.D., two sons, eight granddaughters, three sisters, nieces, nephews, and a host of family and friends.
Homegoing Services are being held at Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church, 550 Meigs St., Rochester on May 31, viewing at 10 a.m. and service at 11 a.m.
Minority Reporter spoke with Dr. Gayle who shared her thoughts and fondest memories. She said that he was humble and relatively quiet, and an academic at heart. He enjoyed jazz and also dabbled in sports from time to time.
“We used to jog together. We were also doubles partners in tennis. We were good too," she said. “He could serve too! He could serve so hard and I'd be up at the net and I could get it back. We used to ski together as well. And he was a good skier.”
“He was a humble man and a southern gentleman. He was humble, but he spoke his mind and he said what he thought needed to be said. He really didn't hold back,” she shared. “I would say that he was a southern gentleman and even when he became ill, he did his best to try and take care of me, which was just amazing!
Gayle said the academic scholar in him always remained curious. “If there was something that he didn't know, he would read up on it,” she said. “He was actually good at programming. He would read up on something until he was proficient.”
She said he was very smart and intelligent and as a child would read encyclopedias. “He could speak on any subject—you could talk to him on just about any topic. He always had informed words to say, and I would just say 'Sweetheart, you're just brilliant,’” she said.
Dr. Harrison was also a bit of a jokester. Gayle said he would always try to break the ice with new people by telling a joke.
His Life and Accomplishments
Dr. Harrison, who had called the City of Rochester home since 1993, was a medical doctor specializing in Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in Endocrinology and Metabolism.
He received a B.S. degree from Tougaloo College, a historically black college, and an M.D. degree from Northwestern University Medical School in 1966. Harrison received his Endocrinologist training at Vanderbilt University, serving in academic positions at Vanderbilt University, Columbia University, The University of Arkansas, and the University of Rochester (UofR).
At Arkansas and Rochester, he directed the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and directed weight loss programs. While at the University of Rochester, he conducted several clinical trials including studies of weight loss medications including Sibutramine and Xenical.
In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Harrison led a laboratory that investigated the basic, molecular mechanisms of steroid hormone action and produced over 50 peer-reviewed papers, review articles, and book chapters while being supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense.
He additionally spent time participating in classes at OSHER, an RIT-run educational program for persons over the age of 50 and served as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
After retiring from his academic work at the UofR in 2001, he became an Emeritus Professor of Medicine and a consultant on drug development, minority recruitment in clinical trials, and an endocrine consultant in product liability litigation.
Harrison was a founding member of the Police Accountability Board (PAB)—appointed to represent the City’s Eastside in 2020 by City Council. His colleagues remembered him as a passionate and outspoken champion who believed in the work of the organization.
Members of the board held a moment of silence honoring Dr. Harrison during their May 4, 2023 board meeting.
PAB Chair Larry Knox
“Dr. Bob was often the center of spirited debate at the Police Accountability Board. His dedication to the mission of the agency and to his constituents was evident in the passion he exhibited while working with the PAB. He will truly be missed.”
PAB Vice Chair Arlene Brown
“We are all saddened by Dr. Harrison’s passing. He was a tremendous supporter of the Police Accountability Board, its staff, and his fellow board members. He was a steward of this community and his legacy will continue through us. The entire agency is offering our thoughts to his family now.”
Rochester City Council President Miguel A. Meléndez, Jr.
“On behalf of the Rochester City Council, we offer our deep condolences to Dr. Harrison’s family. We appreciate Dr. Harrison’s commitment to the Police Accountability Board – as an inaugural Board member, Dr. Harrison served his neighbors as the East District representative for over three years. We are thankful to him and his family for sharing his time with the community. His loved ones will be in our thoughts as they mourn his loss.”