Erhard Haus Tribute
from Michael Smolensky
Tribute to my long-time friend, Erhard Haus
Linda requested that I say a few words about Erhard, and I am so very happy to do so. However, I must admit the difficulty of this chore! Erhard, during his 86 years of life, could not complete all the work and communications he set out to accomplish, and I, within the few minutes I have, surely cannot express completely all the wonderful attributes of this great man.
Where do I start and what do I highlight?
I first met Erhard in the late 1960s, when I was a young 20s something and a fledging doctoral student of chronobiology in Franz Halberg’s laboratory at the University of Minnesota. Erhard needed help in carrying out his animal research for his Doctor of Philosophy project, and, I as did other young chronobiologists in Franz’s lab, volunteered. Erhard was granted his PhD in 1970, and I was granted mine in 1971. Erhard remained in the St. Paul/Minnesota area with cold, icy and snowy winters and giant mosquitoes of the spring/summer, while I escaped as fast as possible to the south, Texas, to enjoy the warm and sunny winters, but hot summers.
Erhard and I have been friends and collaborators for almost 45 years. I categorize Erhard’s life as an exciting adventure and he, himself, as an avid adventurer -- of human relationships with family, friends and collaborators, of sports like skiing, soccer and swimming, whether in the St. Croix River at the back of his property in Scandia or the beautiful beaches of Brazil, of the medical sciences of pathology, chronobiology, immunology, endocrinology and so many other ‘ologies’, of travel, of foods of all nations and kinds, of wildlife from the black bears sharing his front porch to the supposedly scary looking, yet docile, watchdog.
During our life-long friendship we travelled, or maybe I should say, adventured, together worldwide -- to Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, and Wales – to organize and attend national and international chronobiology and shift-work conferences and to present lectures to young students at national and international chronobiology courses.
Erhard exhibited amazing stamina at his more senior age, much more than I did at my much younger age. He somehow displayed little negative effects of jet lag as evidenced not only by his incredible ability in any setting overseas to present always concise, well-crafted, brilliant and in-depth lectures on just about any topic entailing biological rhythms and medicine but also by his readiness for adventure -- whether it be walking the Great Wall of China beyond the city limits of Beijing or visiting ancient historical and archeological sites of Israel, Peru, Tunisia, and Turkey.
Erhard always had his camera ready. He was able to capture unique photographic opportunities, ranging from old Roman ruins to the smiling faces of local ethnic children and also to unsuspecting participants of chronobiology conferences and courses. He took great delight, in a kind of a devilish manner, in capturing ordinarily dry and scholarly academics in unflattering and comical poses, especially the less than agreeable elitist-acting ones who were overly impressed with themselves and their accomplishments.
Erhard was open to the challenge and adventurous delights of all kinds of eats – whether they were insects, cats or lizards served up in the remote areas of China, eggplant of almost 50 different varieties or lamb kebab consumed with a tall room-temperature yogurt drink in restaurants of Istanbul Turkey on a hot day. Little could stop Erhard from pursuing unknown eats. When presented with something strange looking or unfamiliar smelling to consume, he proceeded slowly and cautiously, but again with adventure. He was quite fond of breakfast buffets, displaying a perfected, systematic scientific and comprehensive approach enabling him to taste everything displayed. He also successfully responded to the challenges of the huge buffets offered by the resort hotels of Israel, Tunisia and Turkey. And then there were desserts. Erhard found it difficult to pass up desserts of any kind, even if he later expressed some tempered remorse for not having resisted them; in fact, he never encountered a dessert table that he could not conquer, no matter its size.
Erhard was a complex, yet simple person, of incredibly broad interests and intellect. He was a descendent of a prominent and aristocratic Austrian family, but loved and was comfortable in the company of people of all socioeconomic strata. He was expert in endocrine pathology, hematopathology, general anatomical pathology and clinical laboratory patholology and toxicology, and of course every aspect of chronobiology – both basic and applied. He worked to preserve his 40 acres of the St. Croix River Valley in Scandia, Minnesota for future generations and played an active role in establishing the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Surprisingly enough, even though he was born in Austria, he possessed expertise about American Indian Tribes. He was a medical researcher, par excellence, and a learned spokesman for the field of chronobiology. During his life, he published 3 books, 67 book chapters, more than 260 journal articles and over 300 abstracts. He leaves behind much valuable data that await evaluation and publication.
While Erhard was a deeply complex and intelligent academic and medical doctor, he was also incredibly simple and wise. He was an effective administrator, having developed and headed for 35 years the highly successful Regions Hospital Pathology Residency Program. Too, he was politically savvy, at least to some extent. He always knew the most correct and respectful way to handle difficult people and situations, and usually he was successful, and he also served from 1979 to 1985 as the Medical Examiner of Ramsey and Washington Counties. Finally, he was invited to chair the Word Health Organization panel -- Section on Mechanisms of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on Environmental Toxicology/Carcinogenicity in Painters, Fire Fighters and Shift workers, -- which addressed shift and night work as a risk factor for developing breast, prostate and other cancers.
Above all, Erhard was a loving husband and admirer of all his family members – children and their mates, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Wherever we travelled, he was sure to find ample time to shop for special gifts for all his loved ones. Whenever we spoke by telephone he was also quick to brag about the accomplishments or new developments involving his children and grandchildren before getting to work-related topics.
Erhard was a rare and remarkable person. He leaves a great void that we must strive to fill. He is a role model -- for my children and me and for his children and grandchildren – and all those who knew him well. He was one of my closest friends and cherished collaborators who through his caring and medical advice helped me recover fully from a paralyzing stroke in 2012. It has been a privilege to be part of Erhard’s life and the Haus family. Thank you Erhard for being just you! You live on through the many found memories of our time together and the many activities you kindly shared with me, and you live on in the form of the many memories held by others -- your friends, acquaintances and family – of your all too brief 86 years.