Friday, May 21, 2010

Mike Cobb - Friend, Mentor

Hopefully everyone, at some point in their career, has the good fortune to be taken under the wing of a kind and knowledgeable mentor. For me, that time occurred several years into my career when I was working at the Raytheon Research Division in Lexington, Ma. Only a few years out of a state school (University of Massachusetts), I found myself surrounded by plenty of heavy hitters from the microwave semiconductor field, more than a few with PhD’s from the likes of MIT, Harvard and Stanford; brilliant men and women whose technical achievements were inspiring and intimidating. And yet among these highly capable engineers and scientists, Mike Cobb was in a league of his own.

Mike was my manager for a brief period of two years, in which time he supported me in my job with solid technical guidance, sage advice, and good humor. I am sure that my experience with Mike was far from unique. Most everyone who worked with Mike remember his unwavering skills as an engineer, common sense approach to problem solving and positive attitude. Born in North Carolina in 1951, Mike’s southern accent was a rarity among the Boston natives at Raytheon and yet he addressed any and all northeast elitist attitudes with a firm engineering grasp and a touch of southern charm.

Mike received the B.S. degree in physics from East Carolina University in 1978 and the M.S. degree in microwave engineering from the University of Massachusetts under the UMASS/Raytheon MSEE Degree program. He began working at Raytheon in 1980, where he performed dc and RF characterization measurements of pulsed X-band GaAs IMPATT diodes and circuits, transitioning into a MMIC design and simulation role.

I’ll remember consulting with Mike many times in his office. I can remember looking past him and up toward the family picture he kept tacked to the cork board over his desk. In it, Mike stands on a dock with his young son and daughter, hooking bait onto their fishing lines. I always found it reassuring to be working for someone with such a strong and loving connection to those in his care.

Last summer Mike learned that he had a lung cancer that had spread to his nervous system with no hope for a cure. Mike was 58. His goal was to live long enough to see his 1st grand kid. He made it, but just barely. His cancer spread aggressively to his meninges, and he went downhill very fast, within days. He passed away peacefully this Monday at his daughter's house in Providence. Mike got to hold his brand new granddaughter, Clara Michelle, before he passed.

Mike – your passing truly saddens all of us who knew you and had the pleasure to work with you.

Services will be in Providence, on Sunday at 3pm, with visitation from 1-3pm, at Monahan, Drabble, and Sherman Funeral Home, 230 Waterman St., Providence, RI. A private burial for family will take place on Monday morning.

Instead of flowers, we are asking for donations in memory of Mike towards thoracic oncology research:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute10 Brookline Place West, 6th floorBrookline, MA 02445-7226ATTN: Contribution Services
1-(800) 52-JIMMY (54669)