Remembering Floyd and Elsa
Share your remembrances of Floyd and Elsa. We’ll post your memories here for others to see.
My appreciation of Floyd Dunn is very straightforward: he hired me; I was mentored by Floyd and the other faculty he had already hired; I owe my career to him. I hope that in some measure I have lived up to the trust and confidence he placed in me. I have been astounded, on re-reading accounts of Floyd’s contributions, as to how fundamental, far-reaching, and medically impactful they have been, as well as how far ahead he was of the field. I was unaware of half of them, as Floyd was always one of the most humble individuals I have known. His scientific standing was based on his work, not his retelling of it; his personal standing was for the quality of his interactions with people. My wife and I both have the warmest regards for Elsa. She welcomed us to Champaign, charmed us with her wit and intelligence, and earned a permanent spot in our hearts with her concern and love for us. We miss them both and are grateful their lives graced ours.
I was at Interscience Research Institute (IRI) working with Frank, Reg, and Kelly from 1969-1972 as a research scientist as well as at the Illinois as a graduate student in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics working on my doctorate. During those short three years I had very little interaction with BRL and Floyd….more with Jim Roberson and M.E. Clark in fluid dynamics who were on my dissertation committee. However, after our move to Indianapolis in 1972 and our continuing work in ultrasound (18 more years for me), I had occasions to interact with BRL and Floyd with the international ultrasound workshops at Allerton that were initiated by the Frys back in the ‘60s….I believe.
I also was on a trip to Japan for a WFUMB conference in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s with Frank and Maria Fry and Floyd and his wife among others. The Frys and Dunns were adored by the Japanese engineers and physicians working in ultrasound. Their pioneering work led to numerous visiting scientist and engineer exchanges from Japan over the years. My wife, Annie Faye, and I were recipients of the gracious Japanese hospitality because we were associated with Frank and Floyd. We received gifts and cards from these new foreign friends for years.
The pioneering works in both diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound by the Frys, Floyd, and others at BRL and IRI were way ahead of their time and laid the ground work for the applications of medical ultrasound that reached clinical applications many years later…..some just now getting there. It provides me great joy to look back on those days in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s and remember some of the ground breaking research that we undertook led by the Frys and Floyd and their protege, including O’Brien, Frizzell, Goss, and many others. I was very fortunate to be part of some of that history.
I attended my first Acoustical Society meeting (Fall 1968 in Cleveland) to report my MS thesis work conducted under Prof. Ed Carstensen at Rochester. At that meeting I first met several men that I knew only as authors of scientific journal articles. They included Wes Nyborg, Jack Reid, and Floyd. I still remember as a young grad student how friendly and accepting these men were to me at that meeting. They treated me like a colleague. I suspect that was one of the reasons I was prompted to continue in this field. Three years later Floyd participated in my doctoral defense exam as the “external representative” (see committee form at right). I remember him probing appropriately and kindly. After the chair announced that I passed the exam (after leaving me out in the hall for the appropriate time), I remember Floyd asking, “Well, how does it feel? Kinda’ anticlimactic?” I guess, in a way, it did. That same year I visited Floyd and Bill at U of I and received a warm welcome. In my 47 years in this field, a major blessing for which I am thankful is the congenial group of folks that I’ve had the privilege to be associated with. Floyd was certainly one of them.
My first encounter with Elsa and Floyd was 1982 when Floyd was a visiting professor at Tohoku University where I worked as a secretary. On their second visit to Sendai, in 1984, they kindly recommended that I study English at U of I. This was a pivotal moment in my life. In 1985, I stayed in Champaign with their great care and help, taking ESL courses at U of I. After returning home, I became a translator at Sony Sendai in ’88. Occasionally, I asked Floyd to check my translation and his corrections and suggestions always gave me a new perspective and understanding of English. I was glad I could show Elsa and Floyd Sony Sendai when they visited Sendai in 2002. Elsa often sent me newspaper articles related to Japan, giving me opportunities to learn how Japan was viewed from outside. Also, their way of thinking and exchange of views always fascinated and impressed me. I looked forward to listening to them, as well as to Elsa’s great dishes, whenever I visited them in Champaign and Tucson. Since they liked Japanese food, I was glad to see them enjoying rice, sake, eel, hot crackers, sweets, etc. brought from Japan.
Floyd’s concern for the Japanese researchers he knew continued even after his last visit to Japan in 2005. When I visited Tucson in June 2014, Floyd showed me a book of medical conference proceedings sent from Japan and asked me to search for papers written by the Japanese researchers. The book was all written in Japanese except the titles, which had English subtitles. He said he could understand their research status just by reading the titles. His concern for them and continued interest in the field impressed me greatly.
Since their first visit to Sendai, Elsa had amassed more than 100 kokeshi dolls, traditional wooden dolls crafted in north-eastern Japan, and they were to be donated to the U of I Japan House. To make a catalog, I arranged the kokeshi according to where they were produced. Seeing their lovely faces every day comforted my sorrow for the loss of Elsa and Floyd. I rediscovered the reason Elsa had loved kokeshi and her deep understanding of Japanese culture. Remembering Elsa and Floyd brought back many fond memories shared with them over many years. Their love for me and immeasurable influence on my life are more than I can express.
Diagnostic ultrasound was in its infancy when Floyd invited me to spend a couple of weeks at the University of Illinois to lecture on it. The laboratory established by the Frys was very impressive, and Floyd continued and expanded the research. I made many site visits after that as the research expanded. He and Elsa were great hosts, and I had the pleasure of their company when they visited me years later at my retirement home.
It is very good to celebrate the life and work of our distinguished colleague Floyd Dunn, a true leader and pioneer. While a graduate student at MIT I developed an admiration for Floyd’s contributions to the field. Later, I was fortunate to meet Floyd in person a number of times at the Allerton Conferences, and at other major meetings. In personal conversations he was always willing to listen carefully to the issues of the day and then thoughtfully provide some valuable perspective, drawing from his long and very distinguished career and investigations. Floyd was a rare intellect indeed, and his many contributions and advances opened fruitful pathways. He will be greatly missed. My best wishes and condolences to Floyd’s family, and to Bill O’Brien and his close colleagues and friends.
The debt of gratitude I owe to Floyd Dunn cannot easily be expressed. He was a mentor and friend as well as my employer during times when I had to make critical decisions that affected my future.
I began working for the Biophysical Research Lab in the fall of 1966 as a student employee reporting to Wally Kurasek. By 1977 I was a Civil Service lab assistant performing a number of different tasks. In that year Wally retired and Harlow Ades stepped down as the director of the renamed Bioacoustics Research Laboratory. Harlow had arranged a job interview for me with a research lab in Morrill Hall – and they offered me the position. As the incoming Director of BRL, Floyd called me to his office and said “I’d like you to stay.” He had definite plans for the role I would fill and what duties I would be assigned. He was very persuasive – before I left the room I had agreed to stay. Two years later the Morrill Hall position was terminated becaue the unit had lost its funding. Thirty-eight years later and I’m still affiliated with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Several years later Floyd called me to his office, he had something to show me. It was one of the original beige Macintosh computers, “and it comes with a drawing program!” At that time I was responsible for producing simple illustrations for publication using pen and ink on vellum. The first computer generated drawings Floyd submitted were rejected; computer drawings printed on bond paper were just not professional…until we discovered that you could feed vellum into an Apple LaserWriter II printer. The results were indistinguishable from ink. Macs quickly became very popular in the lab and I was the home-grown expert. In January of ’89 Floyd placed me in charge of the team managing the laboratory’s computer systems under the supervision of Bill O’Brien. Computers and IT became the focus of my career for the next 26 years and it is the field I am still working in today for ECE.
I had the privilege of working for Floyd for 18 years. There aren’t enough superlatives to properly describe him. He always had time to listen, he always had helpful advice, he gave me room to explore and to grow. What a remarkable gentleman.
I remember Floyd through numerous interactions at the Allerton Conferences. These were an exceptional way for a new guy to learn Bioacoustics and how to contribute to the field. In addition, I served with Floyd on the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, Scientific Committee #66 for about 20 years. The committee was chaired by Wesley Nyborg (University of Vermont), and also included Paul Carson (University of Michigan), Ed Carstensen (University of Rochester), Morton Miller (University of Rochester), Horace Thompson (University of Colorado), and Marvin Ziskin (Temple University). This committee produced three authoritative reports on the safety of medical ultrasound, which formed a scientific background for the ongoing efforts to define and regulate ultrasound exposure of patients. Floyd’s participation was particularly valuable to me, as he brought an engineering perspective to the discussions and helped to improve my contributions to the texts through is editing skills.
I hope you have all been lucky enough to have a wonderful friend like Elsa Dunn in your life. Someone you have fun with; someone you learn from and are inspired by; someone who accepts you just the way you are and who is easy to be with; someone you admire. Leon and I landed on the stark, cold winter prairie – far from our New Hampshire families — in February, 1975, with a baby about to turn 1 year old. With packing boxes all around us, Elsa sent Floyd with a picnic for us. More important than the much appreciated, delicious food was the thoughtful kindness and the beginning of cherished friendships with Floyd and Elsa.
As I was getting to know Elsa, I learned of her many passions and talents both past and present which she pursued with achievement and mastery always as her goals. Many had already occurred prior to Leon and I meeting her. She was already a gourmet cook. During her child-rearing years, she took the kids on ambitious camping trips out west, sometimes by herself. She started as a Girl Scout troop leader for Andi and continued her involvement in the organization by becoming a district administrator. She totally supported Roo’s dedication to dance and was a benefactor and fundraiser for his performing arts high school, The National Academy of Arts. She did beautiful, intricate needlework, needlepoint, and embroidery as well as quilting. She was well-read, well-informed, and politically active. She registered voters and worked to support Planned Parenthood, Francis Nelson Health Center, and the ERA. If Elsa Dunn supported a cause, she did it with energy, commitment, and elbow grease. Elsa invited me to do whatever she was doing whether I had that talent or not and never flagged in her support and encouragement. She soon had become a co-chair of the University Women’s Club Gourmet Group. Never before nor afterwards had the club enjoyed such dedication, talent, research, organization, thoroughness, and superb meals. Nothing was left to chance. I still have the menus that Elsa put together for those meals and have had conversations with Gourmet Group members from the 70s and 80s as we fondly remember every detail of Elsa’s wonderful dinners.
Elsa and Floyd invited our little family to join their family for holidays along with others who would have otherwise been alone. The beautifully set dining room table stretched long into the living room to accommodate all: Floyd, Elsa, Andi and Roo, Granny, and their guests of all ages. Nothing hurried, nothing difficult – WELL, unless you count the time when Elsa raised the Thanksgiving carving knife she was carrying IN PSYCHO FASHION behind Granny’s back while I was standing there talking to her, and I had to carry on the conversation with Granny not giving Elsa’s moment of ventilation away. Anyway, it was USUALLY all very gracious, all customs and foods shared and, of course, delicious. Those are cherished memories. I hope many of you here were lucky enough to sit at any of Elsa’s many dinner tables across several continents.
By our first fall in Champaign-Urbana in 1975, I returned to school as a sophomore at the University of Illinois. I had intended to go part-time only to learn the U of I did not allow matriculated part time students. I was terribly conflicted and remember receiving nothing but support and encouragement from Floyd and Elsa. It seemed to them unthinkable that I would do anything else if that’s what I wanted to do. I imagine many of you have experienced that same clear-thinking support from one or both of them. Support which somehow then becomes your high-bar-mandate to do nothing but, nothing less, and nothing but your best. It’s a lot to live up to, isn’t it? But, as I’m sure you know, that level of encouragement results in much greater accomplishment than what might have occurred without it.
What fun Elsa and I used to have. How we would laugh together and even draw Leon and Floyd into the silliness at times. I have never seen an adult play with a toy the way Elsa and Roo loved her R2D2 robot. She would just giggle at him – the robot, not Roo! — as she was guiding him to negotiate the many obstacles of the Dunn household. He seemed almost human! I now think this was a precursor to her mastery of her beloved Mac computer.
When attending our husbands’ conferences together (which wasn’t often due to our ever-busy schedules), we always managed an excursion that would just result in the best belly laughs. No one could make fun of Floyd the way Elsa could! She would tell the best stories at Floyd’s expense and he might get a little red-faced, but he seemed to enjoy those times and would always end them with his side of the story and why he was perfectly justified. Floyd had no sense of direction, would frequently become helplessly lost, and it would just be a hoot until we were back on the right roads.
Floyd couldn’t add anything to the problem-solving, but took new directions very well. In 1978, Elsa returned to school also, first at Parkland, then Eastern Illinois University earning her bachelor’s degree. Roo says she started college after him, finished before him, and had a better GPA! She discovered a love of art and her considerable talent. She worked hard at this and produced great big, precise, pieces of art which were beautifully framed and hung in their home in Champaign and later moved with them to Arizona. No one was more proud of Elsa’s accomplishments than Floyd. He would just beam when we would get to see Elsa’s latest piece. She approached her artwork with the same serious-minded dedication that she approached any of her endeavors. It was important work and she excelled. As tiny as she was, her pieces just kept getting bigger and bigger.
Just as Floyd supported Elsa, Elsa supported Floyd in everything he did. She began traveling with him more, especially to Japan. After he retired, she used her exceptional computer skills to assist him with his correspondence and editorial responsibilities to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. She became his Arizona “Wanda,” an indispensable part of his professional life and she seemed to enjoy it all immensely. I know it was important to her that Floyd stay professionally engaged and high-functioning for as long as possible.
Elsa had long-standing balance and perception problems, but her life changed when she had a bad fall and suffered a difficult injury that had trouble healing. She became terrified of falling again which was problematic with our prolonged, icy, Midwest winters which meant that she was becoming house-bound. She knew that the solution for her was the desert southwest and proceeded to find desirable housing there in 1995. Floyd made no bones about preferring not to move there, but also quickly acknowledged that he would for Elsa. Only the very last time that we talked to him, which was a couple of weeks before he died, did he mention that he then preferred being in Arizona, too.
Theirs was a balanced relationship of love, intellect, mutual respect and enjoyment, give and take, effort and accomplishment. We should all be so lucky. Leon and I missed them both terribly for the last 20 years from our lives in Champaign-Urbana. For most of that time, we knew they were vigorously enjoying themselves and though it was called “retirement,” it didn’t look like retirement for either one of them. Floyd’s medical issues and difficult thrice-weekly dialysis sessions finally slowed them down. Elsa mastered his diet and medication needs and kept him as well as could be for many years. We’re happy they were able to continue the professional involvements, relationships, hobbies, and activities they enjoyed until the very end of their lives.
It still seems like their end came too soon and too quickly. It pleased me to learn than Elsa said she was “too busy to be sick” within a few short weeks of her death. We were concerned to think of Floyd without his Elsa and not surprised that he joined her soon after. We are both so sad that they are no longer in this world with us. We cherish our memories of them as I’m sure you all do. We know they loved and were so proud of their two children, Andi and Roo, and their five grandchildren. The world is a better place because Floyd and Elsa were in it. They are greatly missed and will be well remembered for their many friendships, accomplishments, and contributions around the globe. They were good people of great accomplishment and spent their lives well.
Jon Dunn (Elsa and Floyd’s nephew)
We are as fortunate as any people could be to have had the parents we did. To put it crudely, they don’t make men like our fathers anymore – two Jewish brothers with no money who used the World War II GI Bill to get into major universities, rose to the tops of their fields as pioneers while remaining humble and charitable, made major and important discoveries, were held in the highest regard by the world’s most demanding critics, taught and influenced the highest of achievers, produced countless peer-reviewed publications, and raised successful families. Of everyone I’ve met in my life, I have not heard of an example that comes even remotely close. It doesn’t get much better than that.
As a graduate student studying ultrasound under the direction of Ed Carstensen at the University of Rochester, I had read many papers published by the Frys and Floyd. One day, Ed asked me if I would be interested in a position in the Bioacoustics Research Lab (BRL) at the University of Illinois. Of course I said yes. Later, Floyd was in town for a conference and I had a chance to meet him. I was amazed at how easy it was to talk to someone who was so famous. Ed more than once said that there was a period of years during which Floyd nearly singlehandedly kept the area of ultrasound biophysics alive.
It worked out that I was hired at Illinois as a visiting assistant professor and was to be at Illinois a couple of years. All our family was back in New Hampshire. That changed to three years after I was successful in getting an NSF Research Initiation Grant. Then I interviewed for new jobs at two locations, one in downtown Philadelphia and one in downtown Boston. I returned from those interviews with a new appreciation of the easy commute in Champaign-Urbana, even though it was in the very flat Midwest, as well as the quality of faculty and staff at BRL and the University of Illinois.
I told Floyd I had an interesting question for him: “Even though I am on the faculty, can I apply for one of the tenure track positions being advertised?” He thought for a moment and said that he hadn’t done anything regarding a more permanent position since I had made it clear that I intended to head back east. I am sure that Floyd’s influence played a big role in my getting a tenure-track position. He was incredibly supportive of any and all faculty and staff members that he brought into the BRL.
Funny story 1: One interesting story early on in my time at Illinois was when I went to talk to Floyd, as an editor of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. I wanted his take on revisions to one of my papers as suggested/required by one of his reviewers. He looked at the sheet of reviewer’s comments I had brought in and asked about the huge scribble marks that were all over the page. I said, “Oh, Brian did that,” and Floyd with little hesitation, asked why. I was a little taken aback and said Brian got up early one morning and scribbled all over the sheet that I had left out on the table the previous night. It was then that he said “Oh, oh,” as he realized that I meant my son Brian, as opposed to Bill O’Brien. Thinking of that story always gives me a chuckle.
Funny story 2: Floyd and I co-taught an independent study course for individual students at least a couple of times. We would have the student lecture to us about the topic of the course and ask him questions. These lectures usually occurred after lunch, and many a time Floyd’s eyes would close and his head would start to tilt down. The student would look a little befuddled, not knowing what to do. I would then ask a question of the student in a particularly loud voice to wake Floyd!
Throughout my career Floyd was a great mentor and supportive colleague. He supported me and everyone in the lab through promotions and guidance regarding grant applications. His door was always open if you wanted to discuss some aspect of research or any other topic. He never put people down but guided in a very helpful and kindly manner. He always had the best interests at heart for all of his colleagues and staff. As Kathy has made clear in her remarks, Floyd and Elsa became great friends. It was also nice to interact with Andi and Roo during visits to their house. In fact the two of them made us fall in love with Glacier National Park many years before we ever saw it in real life. Floyd’s international reputation in ultrasound biophysics and bioengineering is second to none. His contributions to the field were huge, wide-ranging, and will have an impact for decades to come. I will always remember Floyd as not only a wonderful colleague and great mentor, but both he and Elsa as kindly and dear friends.