Remembering Professor Connie Eaves: an exceptional researcher, mentor and friend.

On March 7, 2024, the Experimental Hematology community lost a legend. Editor of our journal (2017- June 2023), and a member of the International Society for Experimental Hematology (ISEH) for over 50 years, Professor Connie Eaves was thoroughly devoted to ISEH and its community of researchers. She contributed significantly to the ISEH leadership, notably as President (2002-2003) and was the highly deserving recipient of both the Donald Metcalf Award (2008) and the Outstanding Mentor award (2023). Upon accepting her Mentorship award, Connie declared how proud she was of ISEH - that it was a wonderful scientific meeting and community - and her passion for the society shone through. She worked tirelessly, both for scientific advances and to create opportunities for young scientists. She touched the lives of countless researchers along the way and she will be dearly missed.

Connie and Allen at dinner at the close of the New York ISEH 2023 Meeting at which Connie received the ISEH Outstanding Mentor Award. (Photo credit: Louise Purton)

This is an excerpt from the obituary recently published in Experimental Hematology, which we encourage all to read:

Remembering Professor Connie Eaves: an exceptional researcher, mentor and friend - ScienceDirect

Connie undertook her PhD in the 1960s at the University of Manchester, UK with Professor Laszlo Lajtha, the Director of the Paterson Laboratories, and her first major paper1 set the tone for a career filled with counting and tracking cells while wondering where they all came from. This particular paper queried the precursor:product relationship of antibody-forming cells and this was a class of questions she would return to time and again throughout her illustrious career. After Manchester, she sojourned to the University of Toronto where she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship with Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch, again asking questions about the origins of cells, but this time in the realm of erythropoiesis. Her research with Till and McCulloch included critical work on the positioning of erythroid precursors in the hematopoietic hierarchy.

Ascribing uniform importance to cellular origins was fraught with difficulty for the daughter of a leading mathematician - some things (like circles) did not have origins and likewise did not have an end. Those that knew Connie often ended up in such discussions that challenged the fundamental notions of one’s work, constantly pushing the breadth of thinking. She had a questing mind and embraced challenges that others would have considered too complicated to explore further - not for the sake of a publication, but for the sake of getting it right.

Connie’s approach to science was always ruthlessly quantitative – when her lab were defining different hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) subtypes, she went to the board and calculated the absolute numbers of myeloid cells produced and declared that α-HSCs could not be called “myeloid-biased” because they did not overproduce myeloid cells. α-HSCs should rather be called “lymphoid-deficient” since, to Connie especially, definitions mattered. Arguably one of her most impactful papers was the development of the competitive repopulation unit (CRU) assay which was one of the earliest quantitative approaches to calculating HSC frequencies in long-term transplantation assays and still a gold standard today. Her research also identified growth factor combinations to support HSCs, defined HSC subtypes at the single cell level, generated de novo models of human leukemia and, in the latter stages of her career, she successfully ported the whole set of hematopoietic questions and tools over to the mammary stem cell system, leaving no doubts regarding her enormous scientific contributions, for which she received numerous awards.

But Connie was not just a researcher - she was also one of the most dedicated and passionate mentors in our field. Her laboratory group had steady streams of researchers from across the world and these people bear the strong mark of her supervision. The Terry Fox Laboratory (TFL), which she co-founded with her husband Allen in 1981, became internationally recognized as one of the top locations to study the cellular biology of HSCs. The TFL was family, and it grew alongside her own personal family, with all of them vying for her attention. It was a good thing that she functioned on very little sleep.

Many readers will know her reputation for having an unparalleled work ethic and tenacity. Others will know that she always found time for her students, no matter how trivial the topic, and she trained many who have gone on to make significant contributions to the field. Her mentorship notably extended beyond her laboratory members, she was always supportive of great science and had time for those who shared her passion for science. She was an outstanding role model for women in hematology and many researchers considered her their scientific mother (or grandmother!). Many of us were also fortunate to call her a friend and loved her deeply.

At the end of the day, Connie Eaves was a scientist, a thinker, a community builder, a role model and a leader - but she never felt like a boss. She was driven by her passion for science, and she ignored the politics as much as possible. Despite having a successful career in a highly competitive academic environment she was not a competitor - she recognized the contributions of many others and enjoyed watching the careers of others flourish. Our lives, Experimental Hematology and ISEH are richer for having had her be a part of our community, she will be missed by many and has left behind a huge legacy that will last forever.

We also wish to express our deep condolences to Connie’s family, husband Allen, who she adored (and was adored by in return), her four children, their partners, eleven grandchildren, one sister and two brothers. Her son, David Eaves, has written a beautiful tribute that he has given us permission to share here: Connie Eaves, mother in life and science |

We recognize that many will wish to share their memories of Connie. ISEH members can submit a video testimonial, photo memories and comments on a Kudoboard. To add a memory or tribute, click on the "Add to Board" link, then upload your video or photo and type a message. Click "Post" to have your message saved to the Kudoboard.

These memories will be shared with Connie’s family and used in future opportunities to honor Connie within ISEH. Thank you in advance for your contributions.

Blog post contributed by David Kent and Louise E. Purton

Please note that the statements made by Simply Blood authors are their own views and not necessarily the views of ISEH. ISEH disclaims any or all liability arising from any author's statements or materials.


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