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Passing of Helen Neville

Helen Neville

We report with great sadness that Professor Emerita Helen Neville passed away on Friday, October 12, after years of confounding and increasing health issues. According to Helen’s sister Keet, she went peacefully. Close family members and friends, including her son Justin who had arrived just in time from Scotland, were with her during the last days; she was aware of their presence.

Helen was one of the most influential and visionary psychologists and neuroscientists of her time. She has done groundbreaking work on  the neural basis of language, the plasticity of sensory/attentional/language systems, and most recently on how to leverage her insights in order to attack negative effects of poverty on the brain.

Helen has received a long list of prestigious awards, including the William James Fellow Award from APS and a membership in the National Academy of Science.

For the department and the university (which she joined in 1995) she was an extremely important and forceful presence. In particular the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging would not have happened without her tireless lobbying of the university administration and her engagement with donors.

Helen leaves behind an extended scientific family of former students, postdocs, and colleagues. In May of this year the department had hosted an event that celebrated Helen’s legacy. Members of this family came from across the country and from as far away as Sweden and Japan. It was clear from the contributions and conversations how important and influential Helen’s scientific and personal energy and style had been for everybody present. Fortunately, during that event Helen was still strong enough to receive the gratitude of those whose lives she had touched.

There likely will be an event to celebrate and acknowledge Helen’s life; we will post updates on our departmental website and on social media as the plans for this evolve. We have created a tribute page where people whose lives Helen touched can post thoughts, remembrances, testimonials, and so forth, that will be displayed and preserved on our website.

Our thoughts are with Helen’s close family and relatives.