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I have known Vince Hearing, his wife Betsy, and his children for nearly four decades. We have been close friends since we first met at a Yale pigment cell research meeting in 1973, organized by Aaron Lerner. Vince was a Staff Fellow in the Dermatology Branch of the NCI and I was a junior faculty member in Dermatology at Yale. Vince now serves as Deputy Chief of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Chief of the Pigment Biology Section at the NCI, where he continues his research.

Vince, along with Dick King and Jim Nordlund were for many years the heart and soul of our fledgling Pan American Society for Pigment Cell Research. Of course, this needed the help of many others, but it was primarily they who managed the growth of the society to where it is today – a major accomplishment indeed. Throughout his very active and productive career (and he’s still going strong), Vince has been council member and President of both the PASPCR and IFPCS, served for years as Assistant Editor and then Editor of this journal, organized four pigment cell research meetings, acted as a mentor to countless students, post-doctoral fellows and colleagues like me, and been a prime mover of pigment cell research through his many original research contributions and his generous donations of melanocytic antibodies for research throughout the world. For this, he has received numerous, well-deserved awards and honors. I would also add that Vince makes great melanogenesis pathway slides that he always provides instantly since he seems to never be more than 10 min from his email. I have seen many talks where the speakers use Vince’s summary slides – a testimony to Vince’s expertise and generosity!

Vince’s research on the molecular and cellular biology of mammalian pigmentation has touched virtually every aspect of the pigmentary system and his contributions are legion. To name some, he has published on melanosome structure and function, tyrosinase, TYRP-1, dopachrome tautomerase, Pmel17, melanocortin-1 receptors, the agouti protein, the eumelanin/pheomelanin switch, intracellular trafficking of melanosomal proteins and the effects of dynein and spectrin on early melanosome transport, the effects of UV radiation on pigmentation, the role of SOX9 in UVB-induced melanocyte differentiation and pigmentation, glycosylation and pigmentation, the effects of dickkopf 1 on melanocytic gene expression and Wnt signaling, and suprising findings of long-lasting changes in human skin following repetitive UV radiation.

In today’s cyberworld vernacular, Vince is my BFF (best friend forever) in pigment cell research. At one point, we were having so many daybreak phone calls that he began to refer to me as his morning caffeine. Many years ago Betsy and my wife Linda together forbade Vince and me to email on Christmas – a family day. This edict served to launch our long-standing tradition of a Christmas morning contest to see who can email the other earliest. It seems to be a tie so far, but since both of us are by nature competitive neither seems to have conceded yet. My most humorous memory of Vince stems from the 1998 ESPCR meeting in Prague. The meeting opened with a formal evening session where several dignitaries from Charles University were dressed in long black academic robes and were seated at a long table on a raised stage and were in turn making very formal and dramatic welcoming remarks. At the far end of the table sat Vince, as President of the PASPCR. The only problem was that Vince was dressed in his characteristic informal attire of shirtsleeves. (He claims he was wearing a yellow tie). The contrast in dress was very funny to me and I literally sprinted back to my hotel room to get my camera. Alas, the one slide that came out in the low light has since been lost and I have no smoking gun. Vince’s reaction? Here’s his recent answer to that question: ‘… as it worked down towards me, I thought I would just strangle myself to save everyone the embarrassment, but fortunately they stopped making comments a few people before me’. However, all who know Vince also know that there was certainly no cause for embarrassment. Vince is a world-class scientist and a giant in pigment cell research. Those who meet him quickly learn that he is also a warm, kind, generous and humble man. The last 40 years of pigment cell research would be sorely lacking without him. The good news is that there is surely more to come!