Memorial celebration brings Allston neighbors to Harvard Ed Portal

Harvard president addresses seated crowd

Harvard President Larry Bacow speaks about Ed Portal Founder, Professor Robert Lue during a memorial event. Photo by Scott Eisen

3 min read

A crowd that included former colleagues and staff, Harvard alums, and Allston community members, gathered at the Harvard Ed Portal recently to celebrate the life and legacy of founder Rob Lue. A memorial plaque also was unveiled to honor Lue’s role in the formation and development of the Ed Portal.

Lue, who died from cancer in November 2020, held a remarkable number of leadership roles at Harvard, including professor of the practice in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, founding faculty director of HarvardX, faculty director of the Harvard Ed Portal, Faculty Director of the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and faculty director and PI of LabXchange.

These achievements were mentioned throughout the evening, but Lue’s reputation as a gifted teacher, his unbridled enthusiasm and community building, and his generosity of time and attention, were repeatedly touted as his true legacy.

“He brought so much of himself and his vision into action for our community. He brought so many people together,” remarked Mary Helen Black, Allston community member, and former Ed Portal staff member. “I think I speak for everyone in the neighborhood when I say that he truly brought the best of Harvard to Allston.”

Memorial plaque unveiled in honor of Lue. Photo by Scott Eisen

As the founding faculty director for the Ed Portal, Lue created a mentoring program that matched Harvard undergraduates with K-12 students from the local Allston neighborhood.

“It’s not just the local students that benefited from what they learned at the Ed Portal, it’s what our Harvard students that came as mentors learned about teaching them.  If you learn how to teach, you not only become a better teacher; you become a better learner, and that was Rob,” remarked Harvard President Larry Bacow.

Since the mentoring program’s founding more than a decade ago, the program has continued to expand. “The undergraduate community at the Ed Portal has really grown.  When I first started working with him, we had 15 or 16 students. We had 36 this past semester, and half of them self-identified as first-gen, low-income, underrepresented minority students. I think he would have really been delighted to hear that.” Susan Johnson Assistant Director of Socially Engaged Learning at the Ed Portal, and current manager of the program, noted.

“He had the uncanny ability to see where people were and be able to talk to them and really inspire them to think outside of the box,” explained former mentor Jennifer Tu ’16 in a video tribute.

“His excitement about learning and his passion for helping others understand the world around them was truly infectious. He was a master at creating community and making the portal a place for us and the students that we worked with truly feel like we belonged,” noted Ryan Batter ’13.

“Rob was a singularity. If we’re lucky we meet one person like Rob in our lifetime. I think we are all better off for having known and worked with this absolutely remarkable person,” Bacow concluded.