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In Memoriam

Charles Rohde Memoriam

In Memoriam: Charles A. Rohde, 1937–2023


Charles A. “Chuck” Rohde, PhD, professor and chair emeritus in Biostatistics, passed away on January 23, 2023. He was 85.

During a half-century on the faculty, Chuck played a major role in shaping education programs in Biostatistics and the School. As one of the School’s most beloved teachers, he mentored generations of MPH, ScM, and PhD students—more than 35 as primary thesis advisor, including many who became prominent in biostatistics and public health. He continued teaching actively until 2021, winning one of many excellence-in-instruction awards in that year.

Chuck earned a BS in Management Science in 1959 from Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. After receiving his PhD in statistics from North Carolina State University in 1964, he joined the School as a postdoctoral fellow in Biostatistics and was appointed assistant professor the next year.

Chuck’s statistical research focused on generalized linear models, likelihood analysis and theory, and foundations of statistics. He authored a textbook, Introductory Statistical Inference with the Likelihood Function. His highly rated statistical foundations course was a departmental hallmark for 30 years. His love of the field showed in the depth of his thinking and writing about it as well as the care he poured into his teaching of it to future generations.

Chuck’s research also had broad public health reach. He worked with many ecological and environmental scientists at Johns Hopkins. One was Bill Sladen, PhD, a professor in what was then the Department of Environmental Health Sciences with whom Chuck remembered “mucking around on an island in the Chesapeake Bay,” looking for tagged turtles that could offer clues on how the explosives at Aberdeen Proving Ground had affected the wildlife. Chuck helped Bill compile and analyze the voluminous data from tracking the baby turtles. Chuck also devised a way to analyze huge sets of water samples to measure the biodiversity and oxygen content of the Chesapeake Bay. He applied the technique to assessing lead content in paint dust from urban homes as well.

The Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions benefited from Chuck’s crucial contributions to its efforts to eliminate racial health disparities. He was co-investigator on a study of disparities in access to and utilization of coronary angiography. He also co-authored articles on the effect of residential segregation on hypertension prevalence as well as diabetes

Chuck’s most enduring impact arguably was as chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biostatistics from 1981 to 1996. During these years Chuck shaped the Department into one of the nation’s premier biostatistics programs. He recruited faculty who infused the School and the University with healthy skepticism and a passion for good data. Once, with a $1 million faculty recruitment grant from the Mellon Foundation, Chuck attracted five assistant professors, who dubbed themselves “the Mellonheads.” In all, he recruited 10 assistant professors. Their accomplishment speaks to his outstanding mentorship of them: Ultimately they included a Schoolwide master of public health degree program chair, two department chairs, a School of Public Health Dean, and a University president.

As Chair, Chuck established a vibrant departmental culture which ultimately became recognized as one of the nation’s best in the field. “Everything that is so exceptionally positive about the Department’s culture goes in a straight line to Chuck,” said Karen Bandeen-Roche, PhD, the current Hurley Dorrier Professor and Chair in Biostatistics. Departmental life during the days of his leadership was characterized by daily impromptu lunches, “Kriegspiel” tournaments—blinded chess matches which Chuck moderated, and an open-door, supportive environment where creativity flourished. Faculty and students remember him as a fierce and often lifelong advocate for them—a priority he seemed to hold above all others, together with assuring resources for each to succeed.

Rohde Stories: Lighting the Path Forward

On the 1 year anniversary of Dr. Rohde’s passing, many of Chuck’s former colleagues, students, and mentees came together for a symposium to celebrate his 50+ years with the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics. To view videos from the symposium, visit our YouTube page.

Honoring Chuck

If you would like to honor Chuck’s memory, please donate online or by check to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and designate for the Charles Rohde Centennial Endowed Scholarship.