Spring 2015 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University




Wehr Life Sciences Lobby

Lobby of the Wehr Life Sciences Building in 1975


Dr. Peter Abramoff
Dr. Peter Abramoff in 1975

The decade of the 1970’s began and ended under the leadership of Dr. Peter Abramoff as chair of the department.

There was a significant turnover in faculty in this period, with about a dozen changeovers throughout the decade. Some were terminated or had contracts not renewed, while others left for other opportunities. Seven of these new faculty remained with the department, including recent retirees Drs. James Courtright, Gail Waring and Stephen Munroe as well as Dr. Robert Fitts who is still here.

By 1977, the 20 full time faculty were utilizing the Wehr Life Sciences building at its maximum capacity. Already they foresaw the need of expansion or renovation to accommodate future expansion or growth of the biological sciences program. Compromises made during construction also caused problems. The steam supply for the autoclaves was insufficient, fume hoods exceeded fan capacities, and the department office wasn’t air conditioned leading to temperatures routinely in the high 80’s.


1976 Advising

Dr. Robert Thomson discusses the biology curriculum with students in 1976



In the late 1960’s Dr. Abramoff led the revisions of both the graduate and undergraduate curriculums. Other than adjustments to course offerings based on college requirements and teaching staff limitations, the department held steady with no major policy changes during the whole of the decade.


Dr. Abramoff lectures

Dr. Peter Abramoff leads a premedical advising session during orientation in 1974

In the early seventies, the number of undergraduate biology majors boomed. Most of these students were interested in professional careers in medicine and dentistry. Department leaders figured that this was influenced by a national declining trend of professional jobs in engineering, physics, and chemistry. The late sixties saw 20-30% of the Introductory Biology course as pre-professional students. By 1972, this group represented some 70% of the students. As the number of students majoring in biology increased, so did the department’s ability to place them in medical, dental, graduate, and other health related programs. The trend reversed itself after about 1975. From a peak of 550 declared biology majors, the later seventies saw major numbers level off around 275.



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