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Boris Kuperman

A few words of tribute

SDSU Dept. Biology, Annual Symposium, 6 September 2002

By Stuart Hurlbert


September 20, 1933 - August 10, 2002

It is an honor to say a few words about Boris Kuperman.

As colleagues, teachers, scientists and friends Boris and his wife Victoria have contributed so much to our department since they showed up on our doorstep about six years ago shortly after emigrating from Russia.

As many of you have heard, Boris died of a sudden heart attack on August 10 in Vancouver BC. He and Victoria were just getting ready to return to San Diego after attending parasitology meetings. He had had a wonderful time there in Vancouver doing what parasitiologists love best - talking with old friends and new friends - about worms. And showing each other pictures - of worms.

Boris won the race of life some time ago and his recent years have been victory laps. He came to the U.S. with an international reputation in parasitology. His specialty was tapeworms, but he was highly knowledgeable about and did research on many other groups as well. He was a workaholic, he loved his work, and he had much left to contribute.

As Boris was an expert electron microscopist, it was natural that Steve Barlow was Boris's first contact at SDSU in 1996. It was Steve's kindness in bootlegging a few supplies and a little electron microscope time for Boris, that got Boris and Victoria on board long enough for the rest of the department to discover their talents.

Soon they were involved in projects on snails, on Salton Sea fish, on opossums, on fish and amphibians from several southern California stream systems. And four years ago they began teaching parasitology, which is now one of our most popular upper division courses.

Here are just a few more pictures to remember him by, put together with the help of Joan Dainer.

Here is Boris in the lab beaming at some new parasite from a Salton Sea fish.

 This is Boris and Victoria with a display of their electron micrographs of Salton Sea invertebrates at a symposium two years ago.

And another poster they prepared for one of our open houses, to show young kids and their parents what interesting critters parasites are.

Fish Seining in the Salton Sea

Here is Boris, at age 67, collecting specimens with a seine in 100 degree weather at the Salton Sea.

May all of us in this room be so happy and eager to carry on our scientific work under hard conditions when we reach a similar age!

We have photos of Boris seining in several other situations - and the funny thing is that he's always the one stuck with the deep end of the net.

This presumably reflected his chivalry and not a mere willingness to take orders - but only Victoria knows for sure.

Ambiphrya miltonfriendzi (Ciliophora)
                                                                                                          SEM by Boris Kuperman
A New Form of Ciliate from the Salton Sea named in Honor of

Dr. Milton Friend

in appreciation of his outstanding contributions to improvement of the health of the Salton Sea and his wise leadership of the Salton Sea Science Subcommittee
from the Salton Sea Ecosystem Research Group, San Diego State University
December 1999

Boris adapted well to California culture, and soon was taking pictures of things that would have been illegal in Russia.

This amazing little ciliate he jokingly named after Milt Friend, who was director of the USDI Salton Sea Science office for several years. Milt still keeps a framed copy of this on his office desk back in Madison, Wisconsin - mainly because his wife will not let him keep it at home.

American Citizen !
December 13, 2001

As soon as they were eligible, Boris and Victoria applied for and received their American citizenship. This is Boris just after going thru the ceremony, proud as a peach, almost looking like a Republican - which we know he was not!

The Full Parasitology Team

Finally, Boris and his teammateVictoria, who together revived the teaching of parasitology at SDSU. Despite the difficulties and trauma of Boris's recent death, Victoria insisted this semester's parasitology course go forward. She would cover what Boris had covered. The students' interests came first; many that are signed up might not be able to take it next semester. This is what Boris would want.

I have seen some of the student evaluations of their parasitology course, and the respect and affection of their students comes through clearly in those evaluations.

But the most touching tribute to their teaching and to Boris came just two days ago in an email message one of their former students sent me for forwarding to Victoria. With Victoria's permission I would like to read it to you. It is from Arleen Lim, an SDSU biology graduate now working for Johnson & Johnson in La Jolla.


My Dearest Dr. Matey,                                                         3 September 2002


It is my deep regret that I am finally finding the time to write to you under such terrible circumstances. I just got off the phone with Deanna. She informed me of Dr. Kuperman's passing.

Isn't it tragic that we never fully understand how much a person means to you until they are gone? Because of both you and Dr. Kuperman, I will forever have the name Giardia lamblia ingrained into my memory, as well as images of him patiently demonstrating dissections, and always taking the time to make sure we understood all the required material. I remember him on our field trip, in the lab, sitting in the audience at our graduation, and how much he truly loved his work. His pride and excitement for his work was clearly evident in his teaching. These are the very reasons I fell in love with the both of you. My last semester at the University will always be my fondest, because it was the semester I had the great honor of meeting my two favorite professors. Taking parasitology with you both was like having the pleasure of being taught one of my favorite subjects by my family. You and Dr. Kuperman have much of the same warmth that my parents do. I think that is one of the major reasons I loved your course. And in return, for the both of you to write me such a wonderful letter of recommendation, I was, still am, and forever will be truly touched.

I remember how much it hurt my mother when my father died. My only hope is that you will be spared some of that pain. But after witnessing how beautiful and adorable you were together, I fear that may be an impossibility. So I offer you this: all the consolations and duties of a student/daughter. If you ever need anything: someone to run to the grocery store for you, help you grade your papers, catch live frogs, take out the garbage, mow your lawn, take you to the movies, cook you dinner, look at nasty parasites under the dissecting microscope with you, or just to have a chit-chat with you, I am at your service. Please, never hesitate to call. I will be by soon to say "hello".

With Much Love and Admiration,

Arleen K. Lim



So we salute the magnificent life and person of Boris Kuperman, and pledge our love and support to Victoria whose loss is our own and whose pain we all share.

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[A Thank you to Mary Ann Tiffany for some of the images.]