Deric Bownds


DERIC PERSONAL HISTORY

 

 

I was born to Helen Bownds on May 16, 1942 in San Antonio, Texas.  My father Marlin (Marlin Deric Bownds II...making me Marlin Deric Bownds, III) worked from 1941-45 as a civil service airplane inspector at Kelly field in San Antonio and smaller airfields in Victoria and Cuero, Texas.  Helen and Marlin Bownds were at that time staying at the house of Helen's mother, Ollie Machemehl (Mrs. Mach).  Around the time of my birth, Marlin had a severe case of the Mumps and was hospitalized for a period. (Helen and Marlin much later realized that sterility caused by the disease was probably the reason they never were able to have much desired further children.)  Even though the family moved to Austin soon after the war's end, I came to know the San Antonio house on Barrett Place well during my pre-school years as I spent long periods, especially in the summer, with my grandmother.

Early scenes from San Antonio

I retain nurturing images of Mrs. Mach's bountiful cooking, especially the pecan pies that came from the enormous backyard pecan tree. (It is probably not an accident that my second life partner, Len Walker, bears many personality traits in common with Mrs. Mach, and is a gourmet cook, sometimes on holidays making cookies and fruitcakes from Mrs. Mach's three ring notebook of hand written recipes.) 

Before choosing Austin as a permanent place to live,  my parents and I moved several times in the 1943-45 period to Marlin's civilian aircraft inspector job locations in south Texas and along the gulf coast .  My first memories are from the rental houses or apartments the family stayed in in Victoria Texas,  and Gulfport Mississippi, where Marlin graduated from the Naval Training School in Nov. 1945.  (The history of Marlin and Helen Bownds, at http://www.dericbownds.net/Bownds_History/Bownds_lineage_Web.htm,  has some family photographs showing me from the 1942-50 period, that add to those in this account). 

1944, Deric in the tree in front of the house in Victoria.

  When my father learned that he was about to be drafted, he instead enlisted in the Navy,  and went through basic training while my mother and I returned to live with Mrs. Mach.  Frequent correspondence between Helen and Marlin while he was in the military describe accounts of my being stubborn about eating food I didn't like VERY slowly, and Helen worrying about how often to spank me.  Marlin was about to be shipped out from San Diego when the war ended and he was discharged in March of 1946. 

After being discharged Marlin obtained a position with the Texas State Auditor's Office which he held until 1958.  In 1946 he constructed the family's first house (a prefab) on the corner of Kerby Lane and West 35th St. (1516 W. 35th St.) in Austin.  (Pictures from this period, the Kirby Lane house and then  Mohle Drive houses can been seen at http://www.dericbownds.net/Bownds_History/Bownds_lineage_Web.htm.

I ran barefoot with the pack of neighborhood kids, and attribute my robust immune system to early exposure to pill bugs and dog poop (not to mention possible genetic influences: Ms. Mach claimed to have never had a cold in her life).   In the vacant play lots on Kirby lane, where groups of boys formed dominance hierarchies and teams for games,  I was frequently the odd man out, and stayed on the periphery, watching and getting along with groups but keeping my distance - a pattern that has persisted throughout my life.   My temperament (using Jerome Kagan's classification) was more reserved, introverted, and introspective than it was outgoing, extroverted, and comfortable in social situations. 

In 1949, when I was in the second grade, the family moved to a larger house on Mohle Dr. that was the base for my passage through Brykerwood grade school, O’Henry Junior High School, and Stephen F. Austin High School.  (In the early 2000’s  my son Jonathan and his wife Shana moved into the house, now owned by a family trust, to start their family.) 

Deric napping with Patsy in the Kerby Lane house under one of Mrs. Mach's knitted Afgan blankets.  

 

 

Marlin was frequently on the road auditing colleges around the state during my elementary through beginning high school years.  I missed my father and became a little adult,  relating more strongly to my mother and my parent's social friends than to other children - on camping trips, fishing expeditions.  (A high school girlfriend once told me: "Deric, you were never a child.") I was an intelligent ‘good boy,’ eager, excited, seemingly secure and confident, but rebellious on the inside, my significant adult behaviors formed very early. 

A fishing expedition, and the cooking tent the family constructed in 1953 on one of its summer vacations to the Sig Creek campground in Colorado.

I was an intelligent boy, and very persistent.  When I decided at the age of 8 that I wanted to learn to play the piano and asked my parents to buy a piano, they declined...until I drew a complete keyboard on pieces of paper,  lay them on the floor every evening while my parents were reading, and practiced playing the notes of simple piano pieces.   They then purchased a Steinway upright, by taking a loan with considerable sacrifice. (The upright was shipped to me when I was a Harvard graduate student.  It traveled on to the early years of my University of Wisconsin professorship, until it was replaced with a medium grand Steinway Model L, and that piano yielded in my 60th year to a magnificent Steinway B that was used in many performances and are viewable online (http://www.dericbownds.net/TwinValleyMusic/MusicIntro.html and http://www.youtube.com/DericPiano).   I feel that my ability to effortlessly sightread complex musical scores, noted by my first piano teacher when I was 8 years old,  must be a genetic gift. 

Photo album pictures from elementary and junior high school years.

 

During elementary and junior high school years I was a cub scout, then boy scout. (I was dubious enough about the whole ‘scouting ethic’ to stop short of becoming an eagle scout.)  The sex play among cub and boy scouts made me clear on my desire for intimacy with men, a desire that was largely suppressed between the ages of 12 and 34. and finally led me, after marriage and children, to later assume my full gay identity. I passed through a series of crazes and hobbies:  science fiction, ham radio (the morse code license was KN5DDM),  Heathkit shortwave receiver and other construction kits, theater in junior high and high school (playing the lead in the thrilling drama “Radio Rescue”!). 

Activities during high school years, 1957-59: practicing on the Steinway upright at Mohle Drive, working on high school science fair booth, doing ham radio while studying, and on local television show “TV Class Room - Modern Topics in Mathematics”

Starting in the elementary school years and continuing through high school the 'performance persona' that I used in my academic and musical life was established. In the third grade (Mrs. Woodruff’s class, when I was 8 years old) I took my grandfather’s dress U.S. Calvary sword to show-and-tell,  where I started to act out a sword fight in front of the class before being disciplined.  In junior high and high school I was the organist for several local churches, and played child prodigy at several performances at the University of Texas. During these years I was an academic nerd, hanging out with close friends Jay Davis and Chris Carlson  as the school ‘intellectuals.‘  I had also been learning to play the flute since elementary school,  and so joined junior high and high school bands, becoming student director of the high school marching band. (I was relieved that this exempted me from physical education classes.) My dating in junior high and into high school consisted mainly of acting as an escort to dances and country club socials for various members of a clique of girls around the governor's daughter.  (I did have two serious girlfriends, one of whom, Jane Morton, I reconnected with when she later became a Harvard graduate student.)

Deric in 1959, at the time of High School Graduation, and at prom with girlfriend Jane Morton

My parents realized that I could graduate from high school in two instead of the usual three years by taking a summer typing course, and so virtually compelled this to happen,  over the opposition of school administrators as well as a reluctant Deric. They were ambitious for me, actually stayed up one night to finish a high school science fair project (called “Aural Acuity”) for me after I had gone to bed. Thus I graduated second in the class of 1959, a year ahead of most of my friends. (It was  my ill-feelings over this driving parental ambition that was part of the reason for my later rejecting a faculty position offered at the University of Texas at a higher salary than that offered by my final choice,  The University of Wisconsin.)  This resentment later continued as my parents later attempted to extend their control to the early education and discipline of my children, but was relieved as everyone mellowed and the grandchildren entered their late teenage and young adult years.  

In my senior year of high school I obtained early admission to the University of Texas as an electrical engineer major, and was promised student directorship of the Longhorn Band.  Fate intervened when Brad Butler, a fellow intellectual in my high school homeroom who was applying to Harvard, bet me $10 that if I applied to Harvard I would get in.  I bet I wouldn’t, and lost.  I found later that I was part of Harvard’s new quota system that sought to avoid admitting only east coast preppies with family pedigree. I was a student from the south or southwest whose grade point average was predicted to be average.  Brad and I took off for Harvard in the fall of 1959, and roomed together for our first year in a four person fourth floor dormer suite in freshman dorm Strauss Hall, on the edge of Harvard Yard, overlooking the Harvard Square MTA subway kiosk.  The other two suite mates were east coast aristocrats who joined the Hasty Pudding Club to begin  the ritual of being vetted by the various final private clubs.  This ritual, just like the requirement for coats and ties at all meals that I followed through four years and into graduate school, is no longer maintained. Needless to say,  provincials like Brad and Deric were not on the radar of Harvard’s social circles.    

Apart from the bet with Brad that took me to Harvard, a second random event decisively determined my future.  My high school biology teacher Edna Boone one day read to the class a note from a new University of Texas professor asking if any of her students would like to work in his lab washing dishes.  I volunteered, and so began work under Austen Riggs that continued during the summers of my college years.  When I told Riggs that I was going to Harvard, Riggs responded: “I got my Ph.D. from George Wald at Harvard.  You should look him up when you get there.” 

On arriving at Harvard, I started a work-scholarship job fetching books from the stacks of Harvard’s Widener Library.  The stacks were a fascinating catacomb, with the sub-basements containing several fascinating collections of 18th century country gentlemen as well as restricted pornography collections.  Finally summoning up the courage, I visited George Wald in the middle of the first term,  found him in an expansive mood, and was invited to do a freshman project in the lab. This was supported by money from a recent undergraduate enrichment program funded by Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera.  The brief clumsy project of extracting and identifying carotenoids from frog livers was fascinating enough to motivate me to switch from my intended physical sciences major to a biochemistry major.  My undergraduate thesis was a study of lamprey hemoglobin, done in Austen Riggs’ University of Texas laboratory during the summer breaks.  Each spring, just before flying back to Texas, I traveled up to the Exeter river in New Hampshire, caught and bled a number of migrating lampreys, and brought their blood back to the Riggs lab in an ice bucket to begin that summer’s work. 

Deric at time of Harvard graduation in 1963

I was fascinated by my organic, physical, and biochemistry courses, and they provided a strong foundation for my graduate and postdoctoral work.  I returned to Wald’s laboratory during my senior year, proposing to use a reaction I had learned about in Konrad Bloch’s biochemistry course to study the visual pigment rhodopsin. This senior year work was published in Nature in 1965, as I continued to do graduate studies in Wald’s laboratory.  Wald was indifferent to the protein chemistry work I was doing,  and surprised when I was invited to present my work on the site of attachment of vitamin A aldehyde, retinal, in rhodopsin - the first modern protein biochemistry done on the visual pigments -  at the international biochemical congress in 1967, the same year that George Wald received the Nobel Prize for discovering the role of Vitamin A in vision during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  

Brad and I moved to Quincy House for sophomore through senior years, and enjoyed the Harvard environment of intellectual luminaries.  We had breakfasts with guests Ursula and Reinhold Niebuhr at Quincy House,  took a religion course from protestant theologian Paul Tillich, and I took a Chinese history course from Benjamin Schwartz.  My social life was very limited, apart from a few lasting friendships formed with undergraduate roommates and fellow graduate students in the Biological Laboratories at Harvard.  I did date a few women in undergraduate and graduate years, but my only real affair was during my senior year, with a muscular attractive roommate named Tom.  After this I decided to suppress my gay nature, and was successful in doing so from 1959 until 1974. I worked as rehearsal pianist for the Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and also accompanied the graduate chorus.  The flute playing that had supported my high school band experience dropped by the wayside.   In my senior year, George Wald, a messianic figure, launched his new Harvard General Education Course “The Nature of Living Things” and I taught laboratory sections of this course through my college senior and graduate school years.

 During the first year of graduate school, home was an apartment  (“The Upland Downs”) shared with four other men on Upland Rd., north of Harvard Square, just off Massachusetts Ave.  The boozy and chaotic environment drove me to become a resident tutor, during my second and third graduate student years, at Winthrop House under the new Master, Bruce Chalmers. I organized chamber music concerts and sherry hours for undergraduates in the house, one guest being B.F. Skinner (who talked about pornography as an antidote to aging!). During this period I frequently went to Woods Hole on Cape Cod, where I was guest at the summer homes of George and Ruth Wald, and also the Chalmers. I took the well known Marine Biological Laboratory’s Physiology course in Woods Hole, and there met instructor Harlyn Halvorsen, director of a new Molecular Biology Laboratory being built at Wisconsin.

Deric in 1996, during graduate student days (1963-67).  Holding the Ph.D. thesis. 

 In 1964 my high school girlfriend Jane Morton, having graduated from the University of Texas, came to do graduate work in medieval English at Harvard.  We resumed our romance, became engaged, and I moved from Winthrop House to the Harvard Botanic Garden faculty apartments so that we would have a place to live together.   Sadly, in 1967 Jane began to experience seizures, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and died within two months.  By this time I had moved to a postdoctoral position in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School, and was grateful for the supportive environment  they provided.  Six month’s after Jane’s death, during daily afternoon tea times in the Hubel and Wiesel lab,  I met Marilyn Vanderhoof, an intelligent and pleasant technician who worked with Hubel and Wiesel’s cat colony.  We dated, became engaged, and were married in Livingston New Jersey in June of 1968, then proceeding together to Madison Wisconsin late that fall as I assumed a faculty position at The University of Wisconsin, having been recruited to join the new Laboratory of Molecular Biology by Harlyn Halvorsen, my instructor in the Woods Hole physiology course in 1963.  

During the Harvard Medical School Neurobiology postdoctoral period, 1967-68,  at the Harvard Botanic Gardens apartments, with the Steinway upright shipped from Texas.

Deric Bownds and Marilyn Vanderhoof, 1968, the wedding.

1968 Christmas dinner at Ms. Mach’s home on Mohle Dr, with new wife Marilyn.

 

Marilyn and I moved into university faculty apartments in Dec. 1968, and I began to set up my laboratory in an empty half of the third floor of the new Molecular Biology Laboratory.  My pedigree from having been in the Wald laboratory and the Harvard Medical Neurobiology department facilitated my arriving with one of the early grants (EY-00463) awarded by the recently formed National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. This grant was continuously renewed to support the next 28 years of my vision research, until I started a second academic career studying the biology of mind.  With training in biochemistry and neurophysiology, I was proposing to integrate studies of the chemistry and physiology of the rod photoreceptors used in our dim light vision,  to understand how light is changed into a nerve signal in the eye. 

I arrived at Wisconsin with a tinge of arrogance from thinking myself Harvard’s gift to the benighted midwest, and was initially fairly harsh to students and colleagues -  dismissing one new graduate student who proved to be unable to name the acidic or basic amino acids.  Three wives of postdoctoral fellows in other laboratories applied to take positions in the laboratory, two having Ph.D.s in biochemistry, so research was underway with record speed.  I also collaborated with colleague Julius Adler to start the first Neurobiology Course taught at the university.  After attending a Gordon Conference on the new field of protein phosphorylation, I returned to the laboratory and looked at whether this reaction occurred with rhodopsin.  My discovery of the light activated phosphorylation of rhodopsin established my independent research career.  (This discovery required that I realize that seeing effects of light on chemistry must start in complete darkness. This was made possible by the recent availability of infrared image converters developed for the Vietnam war.  Other laboratories used the dim red lights that were considered to bleach ‘insignificant‘ amounts of rhodopsin for experimental manipulations, amounts which in fact turned on all the interesting chemistry.)    

During the early Wisconsin years the rich social life created by my wife Marilyn finally broke through my previous solitude and I began to form friendships within her ever enlarging circle of friends, the most significant being with a large handsome Naval ROTC instructor recently returned from Vietnam named Bill, met through one of her tennis friends.  I still remained monomaniacally focused on my work, leaving social arrangements with other couples to Marilyn, but now did slowly start to make a social circle of my own.  Through Bill, I met disciples of a local guru named Alexander Leath, who taught a course on creative and artistic development.  Starting in  1973 and over the next few years, I took this course and also went with fellow students to other group training contexts: Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Therapy workshops,  modern and improvisational dance classes. The boy who ‘never had a childhood’ was now discovering one.  I became fascinated with psychology during this period, and started energetic reading  on how the mind works that 20 years later led to a course, a book (“The Biology of Mind”), and my second career.  These were turbulent times - In September of 1973 I read a anti-war statement to my Neurobiology class and joined (for a few days) a strike of teachers and students protesting the Vietnam war.

In 1974 I told Marilyn that Bill was more than just a friend, also said that this had no influence on my desire to be married and have children.  Marilyn agreed to accept this, and so we were able to be a typical suburban family for the next 14 years, with my male friends, some also married, being friendly with Marilyn and the kids.  During this period Marilyn also knew all of the groupies with whom I was doing training in meditation, dancing, massage, rolfing, and various pop therapies. Marilyn and I took Disco Dancing lessons at the Back Door, the local gay bar, and also went together to Tai Chi classes.   At a men’s support group in Madison I met chemistry post-doc Michael Biernbaum, who became my laboratory manager for almost twenty years.    By 1974-75 I was bringing all his newfound ‘new age’ energy into my professional life, viewing my mission as nurturing the humans working under me (not to mention that this improved and motivated their work, which was the basis of my growing prestige in the vision field). 

1976 - The lab group dancing on Observatory Hill

The period of 1975-78 was the mellow ‘golden age’ of the laboratory.  The group experimented with whatever new age social model was du jour, generally with the subtext of trying to be kind and gentle people.  Whenever I travelled out into the lean and mean real world to present the lab’s work, I returned to lecture everyone on what a deal they had, and wondered if I was making them mean enough.  (A visual history of the laboratory’s history, prepared for the occasion of my 70th birthday and a reunion of those who worked in the laboratory over a 28 year period can be found at  http://prezi.com/dutwlpxw4pa_/bownds-laboratory-reunion-may-26-27-2012/.  CV and scientific publications can be found at  http://www.dericbownds.net/bom/CV.html/. Pictures from the reunion   can be found here.)

At the same time I was participating in Dance Department recitals at Lathop Hall, the laboratory was doing ground breaking work, its next discovery being to find that a chemical reaction (a cyclic GMP decrease observed after illumination) was rapid enough to be a step in visual excitation.  Thus by the end of 1976 two of the most important contributions of my scientific career had been made.  Invitations to international meetings were becoming more common.  Marilyn and I stayed at the Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles in June 1975, where a meeting was being sponsored by a rich French businessman, then spent time in Paris and with friends in Provence. In 1979 we went to a symposium in Kyoto Japan together sponsored by a foundation established by a Japanese industrialist.  By this time (~1975-1980) I was annually presenting the lab’s work at one or another international biochemical or neuroscience congress and also traveling to Washington, D.C. at least three times a year to serve as a reviewer on the NIH panel evaluating vision research grant applications.   

Jonathan and Sarah were born in 1974 and 1976,  and my parents began to visit regularly.  Their visits would frequently coincide with Sunday Musical/Socials at the house on Colgate Road on the edge of university campus that we had bought with their assistance.  By this time I had purchased a rebuilt Steinway model L grand piano, more appropriate for performances, and a tradition of house concerts was begun. I performed either alone or with string players recruited for  piano trios and quartets.   During this period Marilyn continued her artistic work (see the painting of a Big Mac above the piano in the picture below), moving from painting to print making with classes in the Art Department, and also started, and continued for many years, to give lectures as a docent at the University’s Art Museum.

Jonathan,  Dec. 1974     Sarah and Jonathan, Dec. 1977

The new Steinway L grand piano -  Dec. 1978

In 1976 I went to Esalen,  the new age outpost on the Big Sur California coast, to take workshops in  gestalt therapy and Feldenkrais technique. A subsequent trip to Esalen together with other workshops and reading on movement, massage, and meditation led me to develop a course - a new age screed with the cover title of “Topics in Human and Animal Movement” - taught three times in 1977-79.  It was an evening course meeting in one of the dance department’s gym rooms, a mixture of lecture, demonstration, applied kinesiology, relaxation, meditation,  Feldenkrais and Alexander techniques, massage and floor work done singly and in pairs.   At the annual ritual meeting of vision researchers in Sarasota, FL.,  colleagues noted my new and laid back lecture style that was resulting from this movement work, and George Wald invited me to present some movement instruction in Woods Hole during the summer.   In the laboratory, Mike Biernbaum, together with new post-doc Rick Cote,  were part of a local mens movement, counterpart to the women’s movement of that time, that established a men’s center. They started and became editors of a new men’s magazine titled “M Magazine - gentle men for gender justice.”  For a period, the main laboratory’s phone became the local office number for the men’s movement. 

1980 - Deric with Marilyn, Jon, Sarah and two versions of the lab group.

Family pictures from the 1980s

Jan 1984 Jonathan’s early computer career.

Nov 1984

1985 Grandparents take the family to Disney World

1987

1988 Looking at photos from Deric’s trip to Japan.

A heady mix of personal and professional life continued throughout the 1980s.  I engaged Sufi dancing, a men’s spirituality group, and intimate friendships with several men.  I took Marilyn to a vision meeting in Erice, Sicily,  and gave talks at other international meetings in Toronto, Mexico City, Cambridge England, Hawaii, and Japan.  A lecture at Stanford provided the occasion to learn a new electrode recording technique which I then set up in the Madison laboratory. This, together with the development of a technique for purifying suspensions of the living light transducing elements (rod outer segments) of rod photoreceptor cells allowed a new generation of experiments through the 1980s integrating the physiology and biochemistry of visual transduction and adaptation.  Early in this period I realized that the prevailing model for visual transduction,  that had required calcium to increase on illumination, was completely backwards. I was credited with then suggesting, in the face of universal opposition, that it in fact decreased. The lab showed further that light transduction into a nerve signal occurred even when calcium changes were entirely abolished.  It was a discovery by a largely unknown Russian that ion channels in the plasma membrane were held open by cyclic GMP, and thus could be closed by the rapid light induced cyclic GMP decrease my laboratory had demonstrated, that finally provided the last step in the transduction pathway, explaining how light is changed into a nerve signal in the eye.  

In 1982 I met a pharmacy graduate student named Mark Weber, and the intense relationship we enjoyed until Mark left for postdoctoral work at Harvard set me on a course to admit that my attempt to construe myself as a ‘bisexual’ was a failure.

1982 Deric and friend Mark.

In 1986 I finally began a gentle transition from my straight suburban husband life to the full time gay life that was natural for me, first first moving part-time into an apartment, then purchasing a condominium near the family house so that Jon and Sarah could easily move back and forth between their mother’s and father’s houses.   I remained close friends with Mark through this period, as Mark moved on to Chicago and became partnered at about the same time (1989) that I partnered with Len Walker (the two couples became lifelong friends), and Marilyn remarried.

In 1991 Len and I bought  an 1860 stone schoolhouse on Twin Valley Road just west of Madison that had been converted to a residence by a Frank Lloyd Wright lieutenant named Herb Fritz.  My parents, who through the 1980s had been frequently visiting Madison and staying in an apartment to see their grandchildren, bought the condominium for their use, and it remained in a family trust after their death.

 The Twin Valley Schoolhouse - front pond built in 2003

 1991, Len, Deric, and Clifford at Twin Valley

 

By 1988, with the problem of visual transduction largely solved, I was having thoughts of retiring from the laboratory research sausage factory, thinking that 20 years of grinding it out, as with military duty, might be enough.  I also was getting impatient with the basic Neurobiology course I had been teaching for 20 years with colleague Tony Stretton. (Tony had been a postdoctoral fellow alongside me at Harvard Medical School, and I had recruited him to come to Wisconsin in the early 1970s.)  Instead of teaching and thinking about single nerve cells, my long interest in movement and psychological therapies led me to want to spend more of my time studying minds and brains.  At the same time I began to spend more time in this new area, a new generation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows was arriving in the laboratory.  This group, notably Vadim Arshavsky, a Russian post doctoral fellow I brought to the laboratory after we met at a conference held on Lake Baikal in Siberia, found an array of new controls of the visual pathway, taking apart, purifying, and putting back together components that turn it on and then off again.  This solid and respected work could have continued for many years, but I felt that the cream had been skimmed, and so systematically made plans to dial down the laboratory, help find positions for my PhD and post doctoral students, and devote increasing time to studying the Biology of Mind,  the topic of a course and eventual book (for work and publications in that area, as well as in vision, as well as more family biography, see http://dericbownds.net and http://mindblog.dericbownds.net).

1993 Taniguchi Foundation symposium in Japan at which Deric (white shirt, center) announced to colleagues his intention to retire from vision research.

I have never regretted retiring from laboratory research at the peak of my career.  My colleagues were uniformly supportive of this late career transition,  yet there was one not so minor issue.  Full time scholarship - writing and teaching on the evolution, structures, and function of mind and brain - wasn’t bringing in the big money associated with research grants, and so I realized that more service to the university would now be necessary.  Through the 1990s my administrative role in the Zoology expanded as I headed the cell and molecular wing of the department, and by 1997 I had agreed to become department chair to repair a faculty and staff meltdown.  I reorganized the department’s support structure and recruited new staff and faculty members.  Perhaps due to my increased understanding of how the emotional brain works and my background in LBJ’s  wheeler-dealer Texas, I was able to deal with power, money, and egomaniacal colleagues.  I was respected and effective,  yet did not enjoy administrative trivia, committee work, and campus politics.  I realized that a simple way to do just what I wanted to do at the university was to retire and become a professor emeritus, to then spend full time writing and teaching. I did this at age 59, in 2001.  Due to a generous retirement system my salary decreased only slightly,  and was was able to spend more time with my fading parents in Texas. My mother Helen was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in 2002,  and Marlin, unable to adjust after over 60 years of marriage, followed her in 2003.      

1999, The Biology of Mind Book

Deric as Zoology Department Chair

 

Through the 1990s and 2000s domestic life centered on the Marshall Ct. condominium - used by grandparents during their visits in the 90s and also by me as an office retreat - and the schoolhouse on Twin Valley road in Middleton where I lived with my partner Len.  During the last two years of my parents’ lives I was spending large blocks of time in Austin Texas, and gave a number of recitals at the Westminster Manor Retirement complex where my parents lived, using a very good Steinway B grand in their meeting hall.  He determined to obtain one of these pianos, larger and with richer sound than the model L I had used over the previous thirty years, and was fortunate to find in the local Steinway showroom a remarkable instrument they had set aside for several years for the use of the chair of the Music Department at the University of Texas.  I purchased this piano as a 60th birthday present to myself, using it in performance for the first time at a 60th birthday social/musical at the Twin Valley schoolhouse.  From 2002 until the present, this piano has supported solo or chamber music performances at an annual social/musical.  A number of the performances are posted on YouTube at http://youtube.com/DericPiano.   In 2001 I established the website http://dericbownds.net  to post my lectures and writings on the Biology of Mind, and  in 2006 I started to pass on some of his thinking and reading in blog posts on “Deric Bownds’ MindBlog - new ideas and work on mind, brain, and behavior - as well as random curious stuff”, http://mindblog.dericbownds.net.   

In 2005 Len and I decided to spend the Christmas holiday at a resort in the gay mecca of Fort Lauderdale.  The appeal of escaping the winters in Madison Wisconsin was obvious, and so I purchased a condominium with a tranquil view on a tree lined inland riverbank, and began to spend every November through March there.  In 2006 and 2007 both Jon and Sarah married partners they had been living with for several years. 

October 2006 - Marriage of Sarah and JT Smith in a ceremony at Twin Valley.

 May 2007 - Marriage of Jonathan and Shana Merlin in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

 

Jon and his business partner head a successful internet company, http://www.praxisis.com/, dealing with mobile commerce, social integration and web services.  Shana Merlin heads the Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation (http://merlin-works.com/ ) A son, Sebastian, was born to Jon and Shana in March 2012 (http://sebastian.bownds.com/), and a second son, Maxwell, in March of 2014.  Sarah is events coordinator for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (http://wedc.org/), and her husband JT Smith is an successful internet entrepreneur and manufacturer of board and card games (http://www.plainblack.com/jt-smith, http://www.gamecrafters.com/ ).

 My 70th birthday in 2012 was marked by the annual social/musical at Twin Valley  and also a reunion of the researchers who had worked in my vision laboratory over the 26 year period from 1968 until 1996. Most of the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows trained in the laboratory attended.  The social/musical included several university friends whom I had known since my graduate student and postdoctoral period at Harvard in the 1960s. (The links to photographs of these events and a brief web history of the laboratory already noted above are collected together at http://mindblog.dericbownds.net/2012/06/mindblogs-other-lives.html.)

The Bownds’ Laboratory Reunion

Len and Deric at the Twin Valley Musical/Social

 

 In 2012 Len decided to end his 11 years of being a Director of Marketing and Public relation at area technical colleges - first at McHenry County College in northern IL. and then at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville Wisconsin - so that he could join me for the annual snowbird period in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I began doing annual piano performance for gay senior groups in Fort Lauderdale, and in 2015 moved my Steinway B to the florida condo after a final Twin Valley concert. In 2016 we sold the stone schoolhouse residence on Twin Valley Road. A history of the house and our period there is at http://dericbownds.net/TwinValley.htm.)

 

 

 
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