June 2, 1963 – November 21, 2019
James “Jim” Robert Alfano, 56, passed away at home surrounded by his loving family and dog Cookie on November 21, 2019 after a long, private, and courageous fight with cancer. He was extremely thankful for all the support he received from family, friends, and his health care team. Born June 2, 1963, in Glendale CA to Joe and Dorothy Alfano, Jim spent his childhood years in Simi Valley, CA. He was the youngest of five siblings. Jim was a Bessey Distinguished Professor in the Center for Plant Science Innovation and the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and served as the Director of UNL’s Undergraduate Microbiology Program. He loved being a Husker and spent many hours cheering on the volleyball and football teams.
Jim earned a Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1993 at Washington State University, followed with postdoctoral training at Cornell University from 1993 to 1997. He was an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas from 1997 to 2000 before joining the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A giant in the field of molecular plant microbe interactions, Jim was passionate about his work but foremost enjoyed the interactions he had with many students, postdoctoral associates, colleagues and friends. He was charismatic, inspirational and a true leader. He is remembered by many as the big guy with a quick smile and infectious laugh. In recognition of his many contributions to science and research, Jim received numerous accolades including the American Phytopathological Society’s Syngenta Award (2005), named as a Charles Bessey Professor at UNL in 2010, a fellow in the American Phytopathological Society in 2011, and a fellow in both the American Association of Advancement of Science in 2012, and American Academy of Microbiology in 2015. While he was proud of his scientific achievements, Jim would be the first to say, that what he cherished above all was his daughter, Isabella Alfano, born in 2007, to Jim and his wife Karin van Dijk. Isabella (Izzy) was absolutely and completely adored by Jim. Fatherhood transformed Jim, personally and spiritually, where in this role, his top priority was to ensure Izzy believed in herself, as he believed in her.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents Joe and Dorothy Alfano, and his father-in-law, Klaas van Dijk. He is survived by his wife Karin; daughter Isabella; siblings, Maryann (Kris), Victor (Cathy), Joe (Christy), and Joan; nephews and nieces Taylor, Joe, Jim, Allison, Keturah and Sasha; mother-in-law, Estelle van Dijk; sisters-in law Mariette and Miriam (John) and many friends.
A Celebration of Life was held at 2:00 p.m. on December 15, 2019 at the George W. Beadle Center on the UNL campus, Lincoln, NE. In lieu of flowers donations can be made “In honor of James R. Alfano” to the Center for Plant Science Innovation Fund (Acct # 01131020) University of Nebraska Foundation 1010 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68508 or online at: https://nufoundation.org/fund/01131020/. Memories of Jim can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and condolences may be posted using the form below.