In Memoriam

In memoriam: Robert H. McKay Jr.

Swarnali  Roy
June 26, 2023

Robert Harvey McKay Jr., a longtime professor at the University of Hawaii, died October 17, 2022, in Hawaii at age 95. He had been a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology since 1968.

Robert H. McKay Jr.

McKay was born June 12, 1927, to Orpha Vivian Ellis and Robert Harvey McKay Sr. in Cordova, in what was then the U.S. Territory of Alaska. He attended high school in Bremerton, Washington, and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Washington in 1953. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1959 under the mentorship of Richard Fineberg at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was able to isolate an insoluble iron-rich microscopic granule, hemosiderin, from horse spleen. He did his postdoctoral work at Harvard and Brandeis universities.

McKay married Monica McTigue in 1958. The couple and their three children moved to Hawaii in 1963, and McKay started his independent research career as an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Hawaii. During his 34-year career, his research work focused on hematology, specifically iron metabolism in humans.

In a tribute posted to his obituary, a former student remembered being part of McKay’s cancer research and wrote that he was a “wonderful mentor” as well as very “kind and patient” person.  He was president and founder of the Shhh Hawaii Charter Chapter of Ohana Kokua, an organization to help people with hearing impairments.

McKay loved to spend long weekends fishing, hiking or playing tennis or poker with his friends and colleagues. He married Anne Winifred Walker in 1998 and enjoyed traveling around the world with her.

Anne McKay died in July 2022. Robert McKay is survived by his children, Karen Fothergill, Jon McKay, and Kevin McKay, and their families; and three stepchildren and their families.

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Swarnali  Roy

Swarnali Roy is a postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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