Professor Bruce Criley to Retire
November 6, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Over the years Bruce B. Criley has been with Illinois Wesleyan
University, he has seen many advances in the field of biology. “What is terribly exciting
about being a biologist is there is so much growth and change in the field,” said
Criley. “No matter how long you teach it, you feel as though you are part of something
dynamic and alive, because you are – with discoveries from DNA to genetic research.”
Criley, chair of the Illinois Wesleyan University Biology Department from 1971 to
2002, will be retiring at the end of this semester after 37 years. A winner of the
University’s top teaching prize, Criley has been the George C. and Ella Beach Lewis
Endowed Chair of Biology for the past 29 years.
During his tenure with the University, he has watched the Biology Department grow.
“Our first years here, we could invite the entire Biology Department to our house
for a get together,” said Norma Criley, Bruce’s wife and a fellow Illinois Wesleyan
biology instructor who retired in May. “These days we would not even have room for
the seniors majoring in biology.”
> Reflections from the Crileys
> Symposium Honors Crileys
> Watch Video of Symposium Presentations and See Photos from the Event
Bruce Criley attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I), graduating
with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology in 1960 and 1962, respectively.
He spent the summer of 1963 studying at the Bermuda Biological Station in St. Georges,
Bermuda. Criley earned his doctorate degree in zoology-embryology from the U of I
in 1967. It was while at the U of I that he met his future wife, Norma, a fellow doctoral
After graduation, Criley joined the faculty of the University of Colorado, where he
became associate professor of biology, chairman of the Organismic Biology Division,
and associate chair of the Biology Department. He also served as the director of the
Experimental Embryology-Histology Laboratory, and was awarded several Outstanding
In 1971, Criley joined the Illinois Wesleyan faculty as the chairman of the Biology
Department, a position he held for 31 years. During his tenure, he worked to develop
curriculum for students pursuing medical fields and served as the chair of the Pre-Med
Advisory Committee, which formed in 1972. In 1979, he was named to the George C. and
Ella Beach Lewis Professor of Biology Chair.
Criley and his wife led students on travel courses for nearly 20 years, studying coastal
biology in Florida and Australia. Known for his dedication to his students, in 1985
the University named Criley the Century Club winner, which was the University's top
teaching prize. “We are now literally to the point where we should ask whether or
not we should do what we can do,” he said in his speech at the Century Club dinner,
“and this is not, I submit, a completely biological question.”
Throughout the years, Criley has not strayed from the controversy surrounding biology,
from openly questioning the limits on stem cell research in the United States and
conducting seminars on biomedical ethics, to attending a meeting at the state Capitol
in 1985 that pointed out scientific inaccuracies of the anti-abortion film Silent Scream. “I cannot comment on whether things are right or wrong, but I can comment on whether
the science is correct,” said Criley.
Criley is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation,
as well as grants from the University of Illinois and the University of Colorado.
He is a member of the American Society of Zoologists, the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the
American Museum of Natural History.
In honor of the Crileys, former students have established the Criley Endowment Fund
for the University. The fund was announced Nov. 1 at an educational symposium to celebrate
the Crileys. Former students returned to speak at the symposium, including Greg Poland,
a 1977 graduate and director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group in Minnesota, and
Thomas Griffith, a 1990 Illinois Wesleyan graduate and director of urological research
at the University of Iowa.
Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960