Irving 'Irv' Leslie Kornfield

Jul 16, 1945 - Apr 4, 2017

Irving's Story

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Bangor - Irving 'Irv' Leslie Kornfield, PhD, died April 4th, 2017, after a prolonged and spirited fight with cancer. I composed this obituary several days before my demise. I was born with my twin Jack on the Marine base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where my father was, with many others, training for the invasion of Japan. We moved to Philadelphia and a year later my second brother Lawrence was born. The three of us enjoyed the pastime of all young boys including significant rough housing, but always protecting each other. As a child, my family moved frequently and I was a student in no fewer than eight schools before finally settling in Newton, MA. Along the way a third brother, Kenny, was born.
From Newton High School I attended Syracuse University where the first week of freshman year I met the love of my life, Tori. She has provided the continuous support, encouragement, and love that so enriched my life and made my professional career possible. I love her so.
After graduation, I was a keeper at the Syracuse Zoo. Very small, but it had the requisite cats and ungulates. It was an awful lot of fun. Tori and I visited at night, feeding bananas to the baby chimps and attempting to ride the baby Elephant.
I attended graduate school in Ecology and Evolution at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. It was wonderful to learn molecular techniques to reconstruct the history of life, to identify cryptic organisms and to help to try to understand where species come from. My training prepared me exceptionally well for future research.
Our first daughter Molly was born on Long Island during graduate study. After I received my PhD, I studied at the Smithsonian Institution, and subsequently at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was offered and accepted an assistant professorship in zoology at The University of Maine and with my family, moved to Bangor. My daughter Emily was born the second year of my academic career. At Orono I had a marvelous time developing and teaching courses for undergraduates and graduates including a very large course on forensics that had crime scenes replete with fake blood. My teaching and academic enterprises were acknowledged by awards including Carnegie Prof. of the Year, Distinguished Maine Professor, and the Presidential Teaching Award.
My research involved the evolutionary genetics and population biology of aquatic organisms. My students and I studied organisms around the world including South America, Africa and Asia. I was exceptionally fortunate that Tori tolerated the fieldwork and many research expeditions I organized. I circumnavigated the world with Tori and Emily as a Semester at Sea faculty member. Ports of call were diverse and I was fortunate to visit many Asian localities. My students and I sampled in India and identified a number of new marine species. My research honors included fellowships in the Smithsonian, Explorer's Club, AAAS, Dipl., FOL Intermé, and was topped by having a marine crustacean named after me, Austrocuma kornfieldi. In addition to fundamental research, with Deb Palman I established a lab for the Maine Warden Service using molecular techniques to identify poaching and other wildlife crimes. My students and I conducted casework for almost a decade, assisting prosecutors and testifying in court.
I felt singularly privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to teach and conduct research as a professor at the University of Maine. There simply is no better circumstance offering such unconstrained intellectual freedom. With this freedom, I was able to travel to remote areas that few outsiders have been privileged to visit. Most importantly, my position provided the opportunity to mentor many students and collaborate with many fine faculty and colleagues.
With continuous loving support from my wife Tori of nearly 50 years, I had an exceptional ride. Together we traveled extensively, saw the green flash at sea, witnessed the power of Egypt's artistry and Jerusalem's antiquities, and enjoyed adventures in the tradition of travelers of old. My gracious and caring daughters Molly and Emily, have continuously rewarded me with their love, and now four lovely grandchildren of the next generation. Molly and Emily are simply too sweet for words. I have a truly loving family.
My brothers Laurence, Kenneth and Jack, exceptional individuals all, provided marvelous shared adventures from Morocco to Bali, including rare cuisines and connections with remarkable people. These times were extraordinarily special.
To everyone here and all whom I have touched, thank you for all the love. I return it many times over.
Donations in Irv's memory may be made to: FRAXA Research Foundation, www.fraxa.org.
The family invites friends and family to join us for a celebration of his life at the Family Reception Center of Brookings Smith, 163 Center Street, Bangor, 4 to 6 p.m., Friday, April 7, 2017. Please bring your Irv stories to share! Condolences to the family may be expressed at BrookingsSmith.com.
Published on  April 5, 2017
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