Dorothea Franzen

Dorothea S. Franzen

Emerita Biology Professor Dorothea S. Franzen Dies at 96

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