ITHACA

Dr. James Howard Gillespie, passed away on January 10, 2011.  Jim was born on November 26, 1917, in Bethlehem, PA. He was the much beloved son of John and Mary Gillespie and brother to Dorothy, Harvey, Marietta, Anamae, and Betty, his only surviving sibling. They were a family of modest means yet valued education and each other.  

At Bethlehem High School Jim played baseball, basketball, and was the Captain of the tennis team.  His brother Harvey was a big influence on getting him involved in sports and stressed the importance of getting educated in a profession.  Jim was graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1939.  During World War II, he served as a Second Lieutenant in the Veterinary Corps of the U.S. Army, stationed primarily in Kunming, China.  After intense and highly successful Army-style instruction in foreign language communication, he had become able to communicate in Mandarin Chinese.  Upon completion of his active military service, he had been advanced to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Re-entering civilian life, Jim was appointed as a poultry pathologist on the faculty of the University of New Hampshire.  In 1946, while serving in that position, he was recruited to the Avian Diseases Section of the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.  In 1950 Jim was appointed Assistant Director of a new Veterinary Virus Research Institute that was developed by its’ Director, Dr. J. Andrew Baker.  The Institute, modeled after the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, from which Dr. Baker had come to Cornell, was a sub-unit of the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology in Cornell’s Veterinary College.  That appointment gave Jim an opportunity to become involved in research on a number of virus diseases of domestic animals.  Being well disciplined, and having tireless enthusiastic curiosity (but always a careful and patient researcher), he became an internationally well-recognized and appreciated contributor to scientific literature. Jim was unquestionably one of Cornell University’s most prolific and distinguished scholars.

Research in virus diseases depends heavily upon laboratory techniques that require quantitative methodology.  Ability to adopt a variety of such techniques was a particularly strong asset for Jim.  He often noted that he was very grateful for an earlier, exceptionally fine education in mathematics. 

One of his most appreciated contributions for the management and immunization of dogs against canine distemper was the development of an immunological nomogram for the assay of material immunity in neonatal puppies; a means for determining the best age for vaccination of newly weaned puppies; to avoid vaccination failure.

Jim’s interest in quantitative immunoassays led him to a sabbatical leave in Holland where he became involved in research on foot-and-mouth disease of cloven-footed animals, a devastating virus disease of animals such as cattle, swine and sheep.  Later, he served for several years as Executive Secretary of the United States Delegation to a United States-Argentine Joint Commission on Foot-and-Mouth Disease, serving at the direct request of United States President John F. Kennedy and Argentinian President Arturo Frondizi.

Jim was later named as Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, a position from which he ultimately retired.  During his service therin, he was instrumental in the initiation and development of a strong research program at Cornell on infectious diseases of aquatic species.

He was a dedicated sports fan all his life especially when it came to Cornell sports of all kinds. He attended those games no matter what the weather or how the team was doing. He passed his love of sports on to his children.

Jim traveled all over the United States and the world as a renowned virologist. He took sabbatical leaves from Cornell in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Berkeley, Bern (Switzerland), Honolulu, and Hanover, NH. Through the influence of Virginia, his wife of 69 years, he and the family traveled across the United States a couple of times and camped many summers in New England. Their favorite spot in New England was Cape Cod where the Wixon family resided. He provided a great education for himself and his family by doing this traveling, not to mention the wonderful memories these trips provided.

Jim and Virginia treasured their home in the woods on Mt. Pleasant and their Cayuga Lake cottage in Lansing. The lake house provided many great times with friends and family. The last family event at the cottage was a picnic this last summer honoring his son Ian and his wife Kelly on the occasion of their marriage on September 5, 2010.  Jim’s grandson, Andrew and his band played at the wedding and made Jim and everyone else there very happy. Music was an equal passion with sports and traveling, and provided his greatest form of relaxation.

Jim is survived by his wife, Virginia, his sons Ian (Kelly), Tom (Tracey), and daughter, Janet, as well as his grandchildren, Abby and Andrew. He is also survived by his sister Betty of Pennsylvania and many nieces and nephews on both sides of the family.

A memorial service, officiated by Rev. Laura Lee Kent, will be held April 7, 2011, at 1 P.M. at The First Congregational Church on Highland Rd., Ithaca, followed by interment at Pleasant Grove Cemetery and a reception at the Moakley House at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course on Warren Rd.  Memorial gifts may be directed to the Salvation Army of Ithaca, 150 N. Albany St., Ithaca, NY 14850 or the Tompkins County SPCA, 1640 Hanshaw Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850.