William & Mary Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on June 23, 2021. - Ed.
I write to share the news that Professor of Marine Science, Emeritus Robert J. “Bob” Byrne passed away peacefully on June 21 at the age of 88. Bob lived a long and joyous life, sharing his love for science, politics, and the beach with all who knew him. His sense of humor and compassion endeared him to his many friends, colleagues, and the numerous graduate students he mentored.
Professor Byrne was born in 1932 in Chicago to Willard and Jeanette Byrne, the youngest of three siblings who were raised in Chicago. He graduated from St. Leo's High School in 1950 and went on to attend the University of Illinois before he joined the U.S. Army and served as a meteorologist. When he returned from the service, he attended the University of Chicago, where he earned his master’s degree and doctorate in Geophysics. While in Chicago, he worked at the U.S. Weather Bureau, then went on to work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts as a research fellow.
He joined the faculty of William & Mary at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 1969 as Associate Marine Scientist and Associate Professor of Marine Science, and was promoted to Professor of Marine Science in 1979. He served also as Head of the Department of Geological Oceanography from 1971-80, Assistant Director of the Division of Physical and Engineering Sciences from 1980-86, and Director for Research and Advisory Services from 1986-96. He retired from VIMS in 1996.
His love of the beach guided his work over the years, focusing on shoreline erosion and beach processes. This work took him all over the world and the United States as a consultant on beaches. He was a fierce advocate for the Chesapeake Bay, working with his colleagues and associates to promote its health.
Family was all important in Bob's life – especially the love of his life, his wife Joan, with whom he ballroom danced, created stained glass works, traveled the world, and played tennis. The love that Bob and Joan shared was inspirational to all. His daughters, Heidi and Heather, were the very luckiest of kids, enjoying the yearly geology lessons at the beach, his wise counsel in times of stress, and his often-funny life stories. He loved his daughters, his son-in-law Gary, his grandchildren Jori (Melissa), Morgan (Bridget), and Katie – and was so happy to meet his great-grandson, Miles. Bob enjoyed many trips to the beach with them, surfing the waves, doing tie- dye and making sand castles. He also greatly loved his sister, Janet Neiman (LeRoy), and brother, Bill Byrne (Mollie), and spent many wonderful holidays with them and their respective families. His loving family circle also included Joan's sister Judy (David), and her daughter Adar.
As some may be aware, Professor Byrne had Parkinson's Disease and was an active participant in the Williamsburg Parkinson's Support Group. In lieu of flowers, the family has offered that donations may be made to the Parkinson's Foundation or the American Parkinson's Disease Association.
A celebration of life is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Monday, June 28 at the Freight Shed in Yorktown. Arrangements by Amory Funeral Home, Grafton, Virginia.