Emeritus Biology Professor George Vlasto Dies

A candle burning.
George Vlasto, emeritus professor of physiology and neurobiology at the Stamford campus. (Photo courtesy of the Vlasto family)
Professor emeritus George Vlasto, who taught biology and pre-med at the Stamford campus until he retired in 1992. (Photo courtesy of the Vlasto family)

George S. Vlasto, a Stamford resident for 26 years, died on Aug. 3 in New Milford, Conn. He was 86.

He was born in New York City in 1928 to the late Solon G. and Tima Vlasto of Athens, Greece and Greenwich, Conn.

Vlasto worked for his father’s newspaper The Atlantis, the largest Greek language daily newspaper published in the United States, which was launched in 1894.

While working there, he covered many World War II victory celebrations, including ceremonies honoring Eisenhower, Nimitz, and Churchill.

He earned his doctoral degree at New York University, and joined the University of Connecticut faculty at the Stamford campus as an assistant professor of physiology and neurobiology, teaching biology and pre-med. He retired in 1992 and moved to Kent, Conn.

Vlasto will be remembered for his gentle and humble spirit, a wonderful sense of humor, and his zest for life, say those who knew him.

“George Vlasto was a very generous colleague,” says Charles Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the Stamford campus. “He was always interested in his students, and nurtured them while they were at the campus.”

Yarish also remembers Vlasto preparing skeletons from dead animals – usually road kill – for his comparative vertebrate anatomy class.

He notes that Vlasto’s doctoral work at NYU in developmental biology using the axolotl (neotenic salamander, also known as a Mexican salamander or a Mexican walking fish) model system provided essential information on cell movements and differentiation in that system.

Vlasto enjoyed traveling with his family, as well as studying history, hiking, and working on caricatures and portraits of family and friends. He documented his family’s life from early on and has left a legacy of video recordings.

He was also a founding member and officer of the Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee. The committee erected a statue, dedicated on May 26, 2013, of Homer L. Wise, a Stamford resident who was a friend of the Vlasto family and was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Annemieke, his brother James, and his sons Solon (Kimberly) and Jan (Catherine), and five grandchildren. His sister, Barbara, predeceased him.

Memorial donations may be made to the White Memorial Conservation Center or the Oliver Wolcott Library, both in Litchfield, Conn. – two of Vlasto’s passions in recent years.