Emerita Biology Professor Dorothea S. Franzen Dies at 96
Dorothea S. Franzen
Dorothea S. Franzen, professor of biology emerita, died Dec. 31, 2008, at Kidron Bethel
Village, a retirement community in North Newton, Kan. She was 96 years old.
Franzen joined Illinois Wesleyan’s faculty in 1952 and retired in 1977 as the George
C. and Ella Beach Lewis Chair of Biology. Among the many honors she received in her
lifetime, she was named Wesleyan’s Teacher of the Year in 1967.
Her research specialty was malacology, the branch of invertebrate zoology which deals
with the study of mollusks. Among her discoveries was a new species of mollusk which
she found along the shores of Long Lake in southern Michigan and named catinella prolongata. She served as national president of the American Malacological Union and received
numerous grants for her research. In 1985 she was named Outstanding Member of the
American Association of University Women.
Born to a family of teachers, Franzen received her bachelor’s degree from Bethel College
in North Newton, Kan. She earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in zoology at
the University of Kansas, becoming the first female Bethel graduate to go on to earn
a Ph.D. Bethel awarded her its Distinguished Achievement Award in 1975.
In 1976, Franzen was interviewed by Wesleyan’s student newspaper, the Argus, about her journey as an educator and a pioneer as a woman in her field. “Now women
can be reasonably sure of getting a position but must go through the rigors of being
prepared and staying qualified,” she said. Franzen also issued a challenge to IWU
women who she felt “were not availing themselves to the opportunities they have. How
many of Wesleyan’s women have gone for a Ph.D.?”
One of Franzen’s students who did go on to graduate school is Nancy Hutson ’71, who
received her doctorate in physiology from Vanderbilt University in 1976 and went on
to become senior vice president of the U.S. Exploratory Development and U.S. Development
Sciences for Pfizer, Inc. After receiving Illinois Wesleyan’s Distinguished Alumnus
Award in 1999, Hutson pointed to the inspiration she received from Franzen, a “tough
taskmaster” who continually tested her students’ commitment to biology and encouraged
them to pursue excellence in college and beyond.
While Franzen was devoted to her research, she told the Argus, “Teaching is my life. I’ve kept up research to keep myself alert as a zoologist.
One has to work above one’s teaching level to maintain an alert outlook and an alert
mind. One must be stimulated to be able to stimulate.”
Contact: Tim Obermiller (309) 556-3181