Eulogy for Bob Gordon to Chicago Psychoanalytic Society
February 23, 2021
Robert Peter Gordon. Bob was a man of quiet action. Respected, well-liked and effective though not dramatic or flamboyant. He was a conscientious administrator and an ethical, sincere clinician. He for most of his professional life would be seen wearing a distinctive bow tie. Before knowing Bob, the people I knew who wore bowties were cardiologists. Bob then was a man of heart and his patients recognized that and benefited from it.
Bob grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Andrew Jackson High School, then on to Swarthmore in suburban Philadelphia for undergraduate work followed by medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation from medical school he served in the Indian Health Service in Oklahoma and was assigned 8 tribes to consult; this prepared the way for his later community service endeavors which included Family Focus in the Englewood community and Evanston plus Friends of the Parks; in 2018 his service to the Friends was acknowledged at a special event marking his retirement from that organization.
In 1971 Bob arrived in Chicago to undertake psychiatry training at the University of Chicago. His residency cohort included Hank Evans and Bob Galatzer-Levy; Mark Levey was in the cohort ahead of them. Following psychiatric training Bob enrolled at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute to become an analyst. He and Mark Levey were classmates and remained good friends for the rest of Bob’s life. For several years Bob, Hank, Mark, Bob Galatzer-Levy, Dave Spira and Charles Jaffe participated in a study group with John Gedo, In the early 1990’s Hank, Mark, Bob G-L and Bob had a study group looking at boundaries outside of standard psychoanalysis; this evolved into an effort to consult to family businesses which they called Analytic Consultants to Business. Bob also joined a study group of Arnold Golbdberg’s that assisted Goldberg to develop his case book on perversions from a self psychological perspective .
After graduating from psychoanalytic training Bob sought to become certified; this was a pre-requisite in those days toward appointment as a training and supervising analyst and Bob accomplished that. He became more deeply involved in Institute and Society administration becoming President of the Society, Associate Dean of the Institute, Dean and ultimately Director. His tenure as Director was disrupted by the onset of Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Disease.
My acquaintance with Bob began when he lived in Hyde Park with his first wife who died unexpectedly in her sleep, probably from a cardiac arrhythmia. Bob was already a devoted Bulls fan and permitted me to join the group dividing up the Bulls tickets. Bob kept those tickets until well beyond the Jordan era; they were located at a corner of the court a dozen or so rows up from the floor. Bob was also a passionate White Sox fan.
Bob was a golfer and along with a couple of other colleagues we would go to different courses. However, after Jo, Bob’s first wife, died, he became an attentive single parent to his kids – Rachel and Be; golf became past history. Bob moved to Lincoln Park where his close neighbor was Bob Fajardo and they became devoted friends sharing dinners in and out; Sophie joined that circle. Bob’s interest in music flourished, enhanced by Sophie’s high level skill as a pianist. Bob and Sophie began having annual holiday soirées which would begin with Sophie’s musicianship on the piano in concert with musician friends. Bob was a gracious, gregarious and warm host and m.c.
After Bob’s diagnosis and closing his practice he continued as long as his cognitive capacity allowed to attend concerts with Sophie and to attend lunch on Friday with the Miller’s Pub Group which included Ed Goldfarb, Jim Fisch, Jim Wilson, Shel Myers, Norm Litowitz, Arnold Tobin and myself.
My most moving memory of Bob which stays with me is being able to tell him how much I admired his frank and open effort to cope with his illness.
In closing I will borrow freely from Shakespeare’s Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. I have come to praise Bob Gordon not to bury him.
-Phil S. Lebovitz, M.D., FABP