In Memoriam

Dr. Robert T. Soper


(from his obituary posted in The Gazette)

Dr. Robert T. Soper, 87, of Iowa City, died Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, at Oaknoll Retirement Residence, surrounded by his loving family following a brief illness. Memorial services are planned in his honor for 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City.

Dr. Soper was a prominent pediatric surgeon at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine for almost four decades and had served as an emeritus professor since his retirement in 1995. Robert or ‘Bob’ is survived by his wife, Helene Jolas, as well as six children, 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Dr. Soper was born at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and grew up in Emmetsburg, Iowa. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was proud to have been on a destroyer that participated in the Tokyo Bay ceremony ending the war. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he met his future wife, the daughter of a Cornell College professor of music. Drawn to a calling in medicine, he attended the University of Iowa College of Medicine and then trained in Cleveland and Mason City before returning to Iowa for a general surgery residency. He then took his fledgling family to Liverpool, England, where he performed a one-year fellowship in pediatric (children’s) surgery, a new specialty that was just emerging. Dr. Soper returned to Iowa City to join the faculty at the University of Iowa. He rose through the professorial ranks and ultimately served as the interim chair of the Department of Surgery from 1992-1995. Dr. Soper was the first and only surgeon to specialize in pediatric surgery in the state of Iowa for many years, treating thousands of children during his long and productive tenure at the university.

Dr. Soper had a very distinguished academic career. He was the editor of seven textbooks of surgery and more than 200 scientific articles. He was invited to give lectures throughout the world on various topics in pediatric surgery and demonstrated operations in several foreign countries. He also performed missionary work in the Congo and on a Navajo reservation.

Dr. Soper was a mentor to many medical students and surgical residents. He was instrumental in training hundreds of surgeons who carried his passion for surgery to all corners of the state of Iowa and across the United States. Dr. Soper received the prestigious Ernest Theilen Clinical Teaching and Service Award from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 1996 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006. In 1998, the Robert T. and Helene J. Soper Chair of Surgery was established, the first endowed chair within the Department of Surgery.

Dr. Soper had a positive influence on many people and was revered by all who came in contact with him as an honest, dedicated, and humble individual. He took care of his patients passionately and treated those around himself with respect and dignity.

Bob also cared deeply about his family and managed to carve out time from his incredibly busy profession to be involved in the lives of those he loved. He and his wife of 61 years created an atmosphere of love and inclusiveness with a passion for music, the arts and science in their household. Their loving partnership touched many lives beyond their nuclear family.

Although he will be missed by all those who love him, his legacy will remain vibrant and his spirit lives on in our hearts and minds.

Instead of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Dr. Soper’s memory to the Oaknoll Foundation.