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John Buck, marine scientist, dies

by Sherry Fisher - January 16, 2007

John Buck, professor emeritus of marine sciences, died Dec. 6 after a stroke. He was 71.

Buck, who lived in Groton Long Point and Longboat Key, Fla., taught at UConn for more than 40 years.

He was distinguished in the fields of bacteriology, marine sciences, and marine microbiology, with special interest in dolphins and red tide.

He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from UConn with honors and distinction in bacteriology in 1957 and 1960, respectively.

In 1965, he received a Ph.D. in marine sciences from the University of Miami.

He was a senior scientist at Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory, specializing in microbiology and bacteriology.

Buck was a distinguished researcher, a well respected teacher, and a family man.

"His dedication was legendary," says Frank Bohlen, professor of marine sciences.

"A demanding mentor requiring precise accurate work and persistence, he taught by example. These characteristics, when combined with his even manner and personal sensitivity and willingness to smile, made him a superlative teacher."

Bohlen adds, "I often think of his contributions as part of the soul of our program."

Robert Whitlach, professor of marine sciences, says Buck was "instrumental in the early development of UConn marine sciences education and research programs, with a particular focus on environmental studies in the coastal zone.

He notes that many of Buck's graduate students went on to successful careers.

Claudia Koerting, a former graduate student of Buck's, recalls his "quick smile, assertive handshake and confident, strong voice. You listened when he spoke," she says.

"He let us make our own mistakes," she adds.

"He stepped back and let us follow our own interests, but he was always accessible, supportive and concerned."

She notes that he frequently asked about students' families because, "family was always important to him. He was very proud of his, and always made time for them."

Buck served on the board of governors of the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, and chaired its advisory board.

He was a member of the board of trustees of the Sea Research Foundation and of the Council of Scientific Advisers for the Whale Study Center.

An avid Red Sox fan, his hobbies included the history of the American circus, the Civil War, and lighthouses - particularly the East Chop Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard, for which he was a docent.

He is survived by his wife, Patty; three children, John, Bethany, and Kristin, and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Dr. John Buck Memorial c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236.

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