1950s History | Zoology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences


The multifaceted changes that exemplified the 1940s continued during the ensuing decade for our Department of Zoology. President Delyte Morris joined the university in 1949 and an unprecedented expansion was launched. During the 1950s, the university increased in size from an enrollment of about 5,000 at the start of the decade to more than 13,000 by 1959. Today there are just over 21,000 students enrolled at SIUC.

The 1940s ended with the Zoology Department having 7 faculty and offering 26 courses. The seven faculty included Willard Gersbacher (Head), Charles Foote, Florence Foote, Hilda Stein, and Joseph Rafalko. Iowa State University graduates Willard Klimstra and William Lewis arrived in 1949 and during the early 1950s, they launched the research laboratories in wildlife and fisheries. Eight courses were added to the curriculum, including Introductory Game Management, Introductory Fish Management, and advanced courses in these same areas. The other four new courses related to this new emphasis were Game Birds, Mammalogy, and Ichthyology.

The starting point for the study of zoology in the 1950s was a pair of courses, one on Vertebrate Diversity and the other on Invertebrate Diversity. Diversity in the animal world has always been a major focus in our department. These same two courses form the foundation for students wishing to major in zoology today. We recently have added a year-long introductory course in biology; this endeavor involves faculty from four departments in the life sciences. However, the importance of understanding animal diversity actually has increased in recent years because of the ongoing efforts for conserving the organisms with which we share the planet. Thus, the Department of Zoology has continued to provide both good teachers of biology and good scholars who are contributing to areas like biodiversity and conservation.

The mid-1950s brought additional faculty and a further enlargement of the curriculum. Harvey Fisher joined the Department as Chair in 1955. Edna Dudgeon and Howard Stains also came to SIU in 1955. In 1956, the group was joined by John Downey, Richard Fredrickson, and George Garoian. The tenure-track faculty now numbered 11, and there were 42 courses offered. Among the additional new offerings added by mid-decade were classes in Advanced Entomology, Natural History of the Vertebrates, Natural History of the Invertebrates, Advanced Ornithology, Evolution, and Herpetology.

The expansion continued during the final portion of the 1950s. Edwin Galbreath joined the Department of Zoology in 1957, and Richard Blackwelder and Richard Kudo arrived in 1958. New courses were added, including Conservation Biology, Insect Pests and Their Control, Vertebrate Paleontology, Game Mammals, and Fish Culture. With the exception of Vertebrate Paleontology, all of the courses added during the 1950s remain a part of the curriculum today. One additional course that was instituted during the latter part of the decade is still an important feature of the graduate program today: Teaching Zoology in College. Having our new graduate students learn about methods and approaches to teaching helps them both in the classroom as teaching assistants and, for many, as teachers later in their careers.

For many decades, the Department of Zoology was housed in the Science Building, though some faculty were, on occasion, housed in other locations. In 1950, the Board of Trustees authorized construction of a Life Science Building (now called Lindegren Hall). By 1952, the Department of Zoology, and several other life science departments, were housed in the new building. The Department of Zoology remained in that building (Lindegren Hall) for almost exactly 20 years before moving to its current home in Life Science II. A final note regarding expansion during the 1950s involves the department budget. In 1949-50, the annual allocation for the Department of Zoology totaled $42,500. With the additional faculty and courses added during the decade, this figure had risen to $116,000 by 1959-60. There also was a significant increase in the budgets for the Cooperative Fisheries and Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratories, from $2,800 in state funds in 1949-50 to $60,700 for 1959-60.