Spring 2014 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University



1960-1969: Coming and Going

Changes and growth of the department’s faculty


Rendering of Life Sciences Building
L-R: Dr. Oliver Smith, graduate student David Bishop, Dr. Walter Rosen, and Dr. Peter Abramoff

At the outset of the 1960’s, the Biology Department quickly stretched its arms and filled the new space made available by the new Life Sciences Building. The department was hopeful that the building would allow for increased research productivity by providing space for needed research equipment and staff. The new building still needed renovations to both finish lab spaces not completed due to lack of funds, and to remodel the building to the actual day-to-day needs of the department.

Dr. John Saunders, the departmental chair at the time, knew that the department was at a critical stage. A halt in progress now could result losing all that had been gained throughout the 1950’s. More faculty were needed to both fill vacancies caused by retirements and to shape the department into a well-rounded educational facility. Up to this point, the department was small with limited representation in only a few areas of biological science.

Plan showing campus in the late 1950's
1968 Departmental gathering: L-R Top: Dr. McDonough, Dr. and Mrs. Darnell, Smith, Abramoff, Dr. and Mrs. Fredericks, Mrs. McDonough, Dr. Thomson, Fr. Mahowald, Dr. Bednar, Mrs. and Dr. Marzluf. Middle: Instr. DiLisio, McQuitty, Mrs. Thomson, Dr. Ellen Rasch, unknown, Mrs. and Dr. Houston, Mrs. Barrett, unknown, Mrs. Millington, Mrs. Ratajczak. Floor: Dr. Bob Rasch, unknown, Dr. Barrett, Dr. Millington.

In 1962, eleven faculty moved into the new Life Sciences Building (including Drs. Saunders, McDonough, Abramoff, Barrett, Greenblatt, Darnell, Rosen, Thompson, Perry, Millington, and Fr. O’Brian), and Dr. Ellen Rasch and Dr. Oliver Smith joined the department soon after. These faculty were increasingly recognized both nationally and internationally as significant professional figures, but by 1964, Dr. Saunders determined that his department needed about 5 new appointments in order to enhance the image of the department as an excellent place for graduate teaching and research. The University needed to offer competitive salaries in order to keep and attract quality faculty, and modern research facilities for the department to produce significant results. In order to thrive, the biologists also required the broader University to respond with timely decisions affecting the welfare of the department. Specifically, the department wanted to recruit experts in population genetics, biochemistry, invertebrate zoology, viral genetics, and biophysical chemistry. The department sought funding from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to finance their operations at a more significant, professional level.

Construction progress
In Dr. Anthony Mahowald S.J.’s courses, his essential aim was to develop the independence and curiosity of his students. (1969)

Throughout the decade, the department worked hard to recruit and keep quality faculty. There was significant turnover -some retired, some had contracts that weren’t renewed, while others moved on to other institutions. New members, including Drs. Fredricks, Marzluf, Houston and Fr. Mahowald would arrive during this period becoming critical members for the future of the department.

Dr. Saunders was recruited by other institutions, with at least one offering him a position without the administrative responsibilities that demanded so much of his time at Marquette. The University was able to negotiate with Dr. Saunders to stay until a successor was groomed. This successor turned out to be Dr. Peter Abramoff, who assumed the responsibilities of department chair in 1965. Dr. Saunders left Marquette University in 1966 to accept a position in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Although the department wanted to fill his faculty line with another senior scientist, Dr. Saunders' research calibre and vision for the department proved impossible to replace.

The department received a Departmental Science Development Grant from the NIH in the fall of 1967. This grant gave the department the ability to fund new faculty salaries, research assistants, technical positions, and equipment and building renovations. The department hoped to recruit faculty with research interests including developmental biology, molecular biology, viral genetics, endocrinology, and neurophysiology. Towards the end of the decade, these faculty needs were fulfilled with the addition of Drs. Piacsek, Salivar, Irr, Miles, Kumaran, Hennen, and Unsworth.

With research labs filled, and a broadening of research interests, the department now supported three categories of faculty:

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Developmental Biology

Regulatory Biology

Dr. Walter Fredricks Dr. Peter Abramoff Dr. Arthur Houston
Dr. Joseph Irr Dr. James Barrett Dr. Bela Piacsek
Dr. George Marzluf Dr. Thomas Bednar, Dr. Harry Miles
Dr. William Salivar Dr. Sally Hennen  
Dr. Oliver Smith Dr. A. Krishna Kumaran  
  Dr. Eugene McDonough  
  Dr. William Millington,  
  Dr. Anthony Mahowald, S.J.  
  Dr. Ellen Rasch  
  Dr. Robert Thomson  
  Dr. Brian Unsworth  

With these expansions, the department and University could now focus on providing the support necessary to retain these highly qualified faculty.



Image credits: Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University Libraries




Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
(Directions/campus map)
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-7355