Professor Marvin Zelen remembered as ‘magnificent human being’

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Several hundred colleagues, family, and friends from as far away as Israel and Japan gathered together on May 22 at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area to attend a memorial service and award presentation celebrating the life of esteemed Professor Marvin Zelen and the lasting impact he made at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the field of statistical science, and the world of public health.

Zelen, a driving force behind both the Harvard Chan Department of Biostatistics and the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), died on November 15, 2014, at age 87 after battling cancer. Known as a giant in the field of biostatistics, Zelen was a man of vision, generosity, and warmth who served as a mentor to two generations of researchers. He was Lemuel Shattuck Research Professor of Statistical Science at the School, and a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Emeritus) at Harvard University. He chaired the School’s Department of Biostatistics from 1981-1990. He helped create (and chaired through 1999) DFCI’s Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology.

“Marvin is called the ‘father of biostatistics’ by many leaders in the field and by the younger generation in the field of biostatistics,” said Xihong Lin, Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Biostatistics and Chair, Department of Biostatistics. “His leadership was not about himself—he always was thinking about how to help others.”