Dr. Robert Novak (“Dr. Bob”), our dear friend and colleague, passed away on August 4, 2022, at the age of 75, in Tampa, Florida.
Much can be said about his academic credentials and accomplishments from his long career. He was a respected professor with multiple appointments in several academic departments of medicine, microbiology, and public health. He served as a consultant and advisor for numerous national and international organizations, including the EPA, WHO, Chinese Academy of Sciences, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Illinois Governor's Office and Pollution Control Board, Vector Control Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health of the US Virgin Islands, US Agency for International Development in Honduras, US Army Medical Virology Institute in Fort Detrick, Maryland, Pan American Health Organization Aedes aegypti biology and control, and Pueblo (Colorado) Board of Water Works.
Bob was a world-renowned medical entomologist with his research focused on mosquito biology and control. He was also a member of many professional organizations among which the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and the Society for Vector Ecology (SOVE) stood so dear to him that he seldom missed their annual meetings. For his service and dedication, Bob received several AMCA awards: Presidential Citation (1993), Memorial Lecture Award (1998), and Medal of Honor (2003), while he served as the AMCA President in 1996–1997. He also served as SOVE President in 2007 and received the society's Distinguished Service Award in 2013. While his many notable accomplishments and contributions can be addressed by others, to me and many others, he was known as Dr. Bob, or simply Bob.

We all know how much he loved Colorado, second only to how much he loved his wife, Lorraine. His stories about his upbringing on a cattle ranch and how that influenced his decision to enter the field of public health are legendary. The funny thing is that he loved animals but found the connection between them and the bugs that fed on them to be fascinating. This happens to the vast majority of those of us working in medical and livestock entomology, so we all accepted his comments as par for the course, never odd.

Bob was a great man. It's been said that you can gauge a person's greatness according to their degree of commitment, and this was certainly true of Bob. A person like Bob is great because he speaks directly to you and lives according to what he says, and when he treats you with affection and respect. A person is great when he does not think about only himself, when he behaves in a kind way, when he provides support, or when he supports others when they most need him. Bob always demonstrated what is most important between two people: friendship, companionship, affection, and respect.

Bob was a giant. He was always interested in your life and looked for opportunities for your personal and professional growth, encouraging his students and colleagues to dream and explore areas outside the conventional box. This was especially true when it meant doing things everyone else thought were so farfetched and impossible, such as his project with the satellite imagery for mosquito surveillance and control.

Bob never allowed himself to be governed by clichéd behaviors and cared little for how he looked in front of others. He abhorred being manipulated or handling people like a puppeteer. He dealt with most disappointments with grace and deference and shared his opinions clearly and with certainty. Bob was blunt and direct, but he always tried to understand the perspectives of others even when he didn't see things the same way they did. We all have at least one instance when his bluntness was clearly manifested, to be washed off later with a beer. He always placed himself in your position and judged you on what he expected from himself under that circumstance.

In his personal life, Bob enjoyed fine and exotic dining. Very seldom can one witness a person enjoy the pleasure of a new dish the way he enjoyed fried crickets and sautéed scorpions at a roadside diner in Cambodia or a bowl of mystery porridge served in a crusty bowl as he did at a gourmet dinner in Eritrea close to the border with Sudan.

Bob was a consummate field entomologist who could not be judged through centimeters, meters, or wealth. He was defined by his actions, honesty, and decency, and will be remembered as kind and respectful of the feelings and interests of others.

Dr. Bob was a great man whose memory and joy for living will remain vibrant in the hearts of many. For his sensitivity and how he treated others, Dr. Bob was a giant.