ROBERT HIGGINS EBERT II died on June 17, 2019, in North Little Rock, Arkansas, of a heart attack. The son of Richard V. and Shirley F. Ebert, he was born on March 29, 1958, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and prepared at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in Minnesota. At Harvard, he was a resident of Mather House and a member of Phillips Brooks House and the Outing Club. He received his AB, cum laude in biology, in 1981; after Harvard, he earned an MA in neurobiology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1983, followed by a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology in 1994 and an MD in 2000 from University of Arkansas.
He served an internship and residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and a fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at Duke University. For the last fifteen years, Dr. Ebert worked as a psychiatrist at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He maintained a great love for the outdoors throughout his life, and was often found fishing at his family’s summer home in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, by Lake Superior. He was an expert on Ernest Hemingway and was having fun with his latest hobby, cooking classes. He was survived by two brothers, Michael H. Ebert and Richard V. Ebert Jr., and two sisters, Constance A. Ebert and Susan L. Ebert.
Elspeth Cameron Ritchie writes:
How to write on about a classmate, who I knew well almost 44 years ago, and then lost touch with for some 35 years? We had some magic times freshman year, had a scary manic encounter after college ended, and then reconnected at the last Harvard reunion.
Let me start there. I had recently retired from the Army and was a psychiatrist in Washington, D.C. We re-met at a lunch in Lowell House. To my surprise Rob had also become a psychiatrist. He was at the Little Rock VA. He was married to a lovely woman. He said she saved his life but did not go into detail.
I was immensely relieved to see him alive and well. Why relieved? When I met Rob in 1986, our freshman year, it was the age of Timothy Leary, acid, experimentation. Most of us were no strangers to marijuana, but LSD was different. It was the time of glycine squares in envelopes. We took the train out to Lincoln, Mass one day. Lying in the grass, we merged minds at the sculpture garden. Later that year we acted as runners for the media during the protests at Three Mile Island, also intense.
We drifted apart as college wore on. Afterward, to my surprise (and to the surprise of several of my Harvard classmates) I joined the Army. I want to medical school which the Army paid for. While doing my medical clerkship at Letterman Army Hospital, wearing the uniform of a second lieutenant, I ran into him.
He was tending goats on the hills of San Francisco. He seemed as shaggy as the goats. He was bizarre. Through the retroscope of the later psychiatric training I think he was acutely manic. That day was cold and he gave me his coat which I wore back to D.C. I flew back to the East Coast. After I got back I worried about him. I looked for him, but pre-google, did not find him. I did find his brother, a well-known psychiatrist.
I did not see him at any of the earlier reunions. Hence my relief at reconnecting at the 35th reunion, not only and finding him not only alive, but doing something he was proud of and with a women he clearly adored. He died last summer of a heart attack.
We will miss you Rob.
Julie Zickefoose writes:
From the moment we met in a freshman forestry seminar, I adored him, the lanky guy with a high waterfall of dark hair, styled in what I now know as a mullet, marked by a silver shock that sometimes fell over one eye. I remember the details of his face—the freckles, the shape of his nose; his slightly crooked teeth; but most of all I remember his goofy laugh, never far from bubbling up. Rob Ebert found most things amusing.
And so we hung out whenever we could as freshmen, and later I’d go down to Mather to grab a meal with him, and I didn’t realize then what a luxury it was, to have a roster of great friends from whom I could pick and choose every single day. We hiked in the woods when we could, but we mostly walked the streets of Cambridge, my short legs clocking two steps for each of his. He seemed to me like an exotic creature from the deep woods, wearing clothes this Virginia girl had never encountered. I went with him to Eastern Mountain Sports and got myself a bargain basement puffy Michelin Man down parka and the biggest, clunkiest hiking boots I could find. I ruined my feet with those boots; they must’ve weighed eight pounds apiece, but I wanted that NorthWoods feel, a long swinging walk like his; I wanted to be around his bemused take on the world and his ready laugh, too. I loved him, not crushy love, but safe, full-hearted just want to be around you love, without deception or duress. We remained the best of friends, always safe in each other’s harbor. Rob dropped out of sight after college; I lost track of him. I didn’t know then, when I was just getting a toehold on my own life, how easy it is for the ones you love to slip away and vanish beneath the surface of what grabs your attention every day.
One of my favorite memories is walking past the Swedenborg Chapel just off the Science Center, and seeing a dark gray pigeon feeding on its tiny lawn. We both stopped and stared. “ My God! Look at that pigeon! That’s the biggest damn pigeon I’ve ever seen!” Rob said. “I was thinking that exact thing!” I said. We stood, gaping, and the pigeon, pecking in a desultory way at the ground, seemed to expand until, we agreed, it was nearly the size of a car. It may have had something to do with the very small scale of the lawn and the church; Swedenborg has the features of a great cathedral, packed into cottage-scale proportions. And it may have had something to do with the effervescent combination of me, Rob, a little hooch, and a balmy day. We began to giggle and we couldn’t stop. Neither could we tear our eyes off that bird. We didn’t need to. It was spring; the dandelions were just beginning to bloom, we were 21, and our world had contracted down to a single point: one gigantic pigeon, and two kids leaning against each other, laughing in the weak lemon sun.
Art Kyriazis writes:
Rob Ebert M.D. was a distinguished psychiatrist who worked in Little Rock Arkansas, where he grew up and where his late Dad was a physician. His main specialty was treating patients at the VA Hospital who had PTSD from the Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern war theaters of the past twenty years.
Now I know that not because it is recited somewhere in some obituary, but because Rob and I (and Rob’s wife) had a long dinner at the 35th Reunion, and spoke for some 2-3 hours. Rob was as happy and fulfilled as he had ever been. He had several goals in his life. One was to pursue a career in medicine, like his dad. Another was to get back home to Little Rock, where he was from initially, because he had a sense of rootlessness when he was away from there. Third, he wanted to find a practice area that was fulfilling and satisfying. Fourth, he wanted to do patient care, not work in biotech or pharma. In describing what he found in his career, what he’d been doing the past decades, it was very clear that Rob had not just found what he had been looking for all along, but that he possessed a sense of serenity, satisfaction and sangfroid that had eluded him in earlier years. He was, to quote the cliché, at peace.
He also was attending church regularly, a gift of his wife, and seemed in the best of health. We shot a couple of photos together. I had an injury—I’d fallen the first day of the Reunion and my entire right hand was in a cast! I was laughingly telling Rob how the Mount Auburn Hospital gave me two painkillers by mistake at the same time, and I had the strange sensation that I was levitating. He really liked that story.
Rob and I had a remarkable amount in common. First, our dads were both MDs. Second, our dads had both served in WW2 and were much older than we were. Third, our dads had each put a bit of pressure on us each to be MDs (understatement). Fourth, we each had strong family roots in our hometowns, he in Little Rock, AK, and I in Philadelphia with my huge Greek family. Fifth, we both were religious. Sixth, we both were driven mainly be a sense of duty in our daily actions, rather than by money or ambition or the other motivations that usually drive men and women. We were very close in our spiritual, ethical and moral compasses. Rob saw that in me, and I saw that in Rob. I had, and always have had, the utmost respect for Rob.
Now that he is gone, may we pray that his memory be eternal. I, like Rob, believe in the resurrection and the life to come, and I pray his soul (along with the other souls today) repose in a place of coolness and comfort awaiting the final judgment of the Lord.
Rob and I were good friends in college. We played football and hoops together, and did stuff together, ate together, the usual college stuff. One time I got a couple of tickets for the Grateful Dead at Boston Garden, and I ran into Rob and asked him if he wanted to go, and he did, and we went. Thanks to the Grateful Dead Archive, we know the show; it was either May 12, 1980, or March 12, 1981. They opened with Jackstraw, and it was a very good version of Jackstraw. Listening to the archive, I’m 95% sure it was the May 12, 1980 show. Anyone interested can look up the set list online. Both of us had been studying quite a bit and we sure needed the break. The weather was nice and the concert was terrific:
We can share the women
We can share the wine
We can share what we got of yours
‘Cause we done shared all of mine
Just a mile to go
Keep on rolling, my old buddy
You're moving much too slow
Fare thee well, Rob. We bid you good night.