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Obituary: One Of World’s ‘Most Important Scientists’ Dies

Patch logo Patch 2/5/2020 Jack Kramer

Guilford Funeral Home

GUILFORD, CT - Ronald Stanton Duman, of Guilford CT passed away unexpectedly while hiking on February 1, 2020.

He is survived by his wife Catharine (Heninger), daughters Kathleen S. and Carolyn M.; brothers John G. Duman and his wife Priscilla of Niles, MI, Thomas J. and his wife Susan of Murrysville, PA, and Michael J. and his wife Christina of Poquoson, VA; sisters Susan M. and her husband John G. Lydic of Selinsgrove, PA, Mary Jo and her husband James Takacs of Ebensburg, PA; and Janet A. and her husband Jeffrey Michkofsky of Ebensburg, PA; father-in-law George R. Heninger and his wife Julie of Hamden, CT; brothers-in-law Steven G. Heninger and his partner Regina Trott of Cumberland, MD, and Brian T. Heninger and his wife Margarita of Springfield, VA. He leaves behind a large extended family of beloved uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and their families.

Ron grew up in a loving and lively household of 7 children, in close proximity to a large, close-knit network of immediate relatives in the small town of Ebensburg, PA. The strong family bonds, integrity, exemplary work ethic and passion for life of his family community were embodied by Ron throughout his life.

At the time of his death, Ron was the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Neuroscience at the Yale University School of Medicine and Director of the Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities of the Connecticut Mental Health Center. He was widely regarded as among the most important scientists in the world studying the neurobiology of stress and depression and the neurobiology of the treatment of stress and mood disorders.

Ron thrived in academic settings. A varsity middle linebacker, Ron graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1976. He then worked in the Biology Dept at Notre Dame. There, to his delight, he nearly rented an apartment previously occupied by his football hero, the quarterback Joe Montana. He then completed his Ph.D. in Neuropharmacology in the laboratory of Sam Enna, Ph.D. at the University of Texasin Houston.

Ron emerged as one of the world's leading scientists studying stress and mood disorders at Yale University. During his post-doctoral fellowship at Yale, he struck up a fortuitous partnership with another transformative scientist, Eric Nestler, M.D., Ph.D. Together they launched the Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, one of the first research programs in the world to focus on the molecular and cellular biology of psychiatric disorders. Dr. Duman's laboratory introduced many transformative insights including the detrimental effects of stress and the positive effects of antidepressant treatments on nerve growth factors, nerve cell structure, and the production of new nerve cells in the adult brain. Over the past decade, he led the study of the neurobiology of the new rapid-acting antidepressants and, through his roles in the VA's National Center for PTSD and National PTSD Brain Bank, studies of the molecular brain mechanisms underlying the symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ron received numerous honors for his work. He was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and recipient of two of the most prestigious prizes for mood disorders research, the Colvin Prize of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the Anna-Monika Foundation Prize.

At Yale, Ron also met his future wife Cathy, also a neuroscientist. They married in 1988 and raised their family in Guilford. Their early years together were busy with career and young family life. Together, Cathy and Ron raised two beautiful and talented daughters, Katie and Carolyn. The passing of the years was marked by a heightened mutual appreciation and love for each other. They both treasured their simple times with each other and both often expressed their gratitude and appreciation of the special friendship and love they shared.

Among the things Ron enjoyed were football/The Steelers and nature. He would do his best to divide weekend time to allow for as much of both of those as possible. Family hiking trips in the Rockies, White Mountains, and Utah were treasured. Among the numerous tasks Ron gave himself was attending to creating a haven for the small creatures in his backyard. Ron looked forward to the birds that returned year after year to nest in the birdhouses he built and was known to lay awake in bed figuring out how to arrange more nest boxes. Ron's skill with gardening was evident in the crop of fruit and vegetables that grew and shared. We thought we would need a full scale farm if Ron retired.

Ron was a unique individual. Everyone who met him was struck by his kindness, generosity, integrity, and sense of humor. He was an inspirational and supportive leader in his work life. However, his gentle spirit and optimism were most deeply felt by his family. He adored his daughters. He was extremely proud of them and dedicated to them. Despite his love for and pride in his daughters, Ron often lamented not having another male in the household and even switched one of the new family kittens for one he thought was a boy (incorrectly, it turns out). In recent years, Ron could be seen walking up the street carrying the family cat or the pet rabbit, bringing them home to safety.

Ron's life ended quietly in a place he loved. He lived a remarkable life and we are all blessed by having had him in our lives. His loss makes the world seem smaller. He will be missed beyond words.

Calling hours will be held on Friday, February 7th from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Guilford Funeral Home, 115 Church St., Guilford. A mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, February 8th at 10 a.m. in St. George Catholic Church, 33 Whitfield St., Guilford. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club (10 City Square Suite 2, Boston, MA 02129), the National Audubon Society (225 Varick St, New York, NY 10014), and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (747 Third Ave, 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10017).

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