I am deeply saddened to announce that our beloved colleague Alex Spence died this morning after a long struggle with cancer. Alex was a dear friend and an essential part of Neurology at the University of Washington for more than 35 years.
Alex graduated from the University of Chicago School of Medicine in 1965 and trained in neurology at The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He loved neuropathology and spent three years at Stanford as a NINDS Special Fellow working with the legendary tumor neuropathologist, Lucien Rubenstein. His career at the University of Washington began in 1974 and he was active as both an investigator and clinician until late last summer. He rose to the rank of Professor in 1987. The broad range of his activities is reflected in his other appointments: joint in Pathology and adjunct in Medicine (following the creation of an independent Department of Neurology) and Neurosurgery. He also served as a consultant for the VA Hospital and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Alex is responsible for the development of neuro-oncology at the University of Washington. He worked tirelessly and quietly to provide extraordinary care for neuro-oncology patients for decades. He had legions of grateful patients, many of whom ultimately succumbed to their illnesses, and provided them and their families with the sensitive management this unique population requires. Residents instinctively appreciated his no-nonsense approach to neurology and neuro-oncology, and many of them remained in touch with Alex over the years. His colleagues deeply admired his uncompromising commitment to patient care and his enthusiasm for research into better ways to diagnose and treat patients with brain tumors. He was an active investigator throughout his entire career. Alex received various awards during his long career in medicine including the “Certificate of Recognition” from UWMC in 2008.
No brief sketch of Alex’s life can do justice to his affecting personality. He was dedicated to his clinical work in a way that is rare today, and went about his work without fanfare. His outside passions were his family, wife Marie and children Evelyn and Douglas, the outdoors, especially to enjoy this on downhill skis and the theater. He had a mischievous sense of humor; most of our Neurology faculty photographs show Alex with a large plastic insect peeking out of his lab coat pocket. He was unpretentious to a fault and deeply allergic to unnecessary attention drawn to his accomplishments. His loyalty to his colleagues was deep and abiding. He was a dear and trusted friend to generations of residents and faculty who had the good fortune to work with him.
We grieve the loss of our colleague and friend, and extend our deepest sympathies to Marie, Evelyn and Douglas. It is fitting to mention that Alex’s unique contributions to neuro-oncology at the University of Washington will be recognized in perpetuity by the creation of the Alexander Spence Endowed Chair in Neuro-oncology established through the generosity of the Alvord family.
Bruce R. Ransom, M.D., Ph.D.
Warren and Jermaine Magnuson Professor and Chair
University of Washington School of Medicine
Department of Neurology
Donations may be made to:
UWMC Department of Neurology, Box 356465
1959 NE Pacific St.
Seattle, WA 98195