Arthur Rempel, beloved longtime Whitman biology professor, passed away on Tuesday, May 1, 2007, at age 97.

Thirty-seven of those years he spent infusing “generations of Whitman students with a love for biology and the world of nature,” said interim Dean of the Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn. 

Professor Art Rempel
Professor Art Rempel

Following his retirement, Rempel spent decades more devoted to the lifelong learning of alumni, who were thrilled to join the expeditions he led from the Antarctic to Africa well into his 80s.

Rempel was born in the Ukraine in 1910 and came to the United States with his siblings following his parents’ deaths during the Russian Revolution. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Oberlin College in 1934, and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938. That same year he began teaching at Whitman, where he remained until his retirement in 1976.

In 1970, Rempel received the Town-Gown award for his service to the college and community of Walla Walla. In 1981, he received a distinguished service award at Whitman and was named a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement for Science for his “contributions to all the biological sciences as an outstanding and inspiring educator.” In 1987, the college awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree.

“Teaching is a very personal and intangible endeavor,” Rempel said in 1991, when the college announced the creation of an endowed a chair in his name. “College teaching is a very privileged experience and occupation. Where else can a person find a situation in which he can share his interests with others, eager minds, year after year? And when these interests include the miracle of life, the wonder of living things, our fellow beings upon this wonder-filled planet — then the true nature of this privilege is obvious.”

It was a privilege for his students as well.

Betty Eidemiller ’74, in a tribute to Rempel in 2000, said that “Dr. Rempel’s classes were demanding, time-intensive, five-credit classes. But there he was, spinning stories of scientific wonder — spirals of a snail, the wildebeest stampeding across African plains — or opening our eyes to the birds in the skies. We all wanted to know, to understand, just as he did, and to have these great adventures for ourselves,” she wrote. “Oh, and I can’t forget — great teachers don’t take themselves too seriously. Although [his] reputation and height were formidable, one stanza of [his] singing ‘Parasites on Parade’ would make us all giggle.”

Many alumni over the years have echoed her sentiments.

“I learned in my first year at Whitman (1975) how great an influence Art Rempel had been on his students,” said Charles Drabek, the biology professor who holds the endowed chair in Rempel’s name. “Whenever I attend an alumni event, I constantly have alums from recent years to several decades, ask about Art and share with me how grateful they were for his teaching and guidance,” Drabek said.

Rempel spirit and legacy will live on at Whitman through the endowed chair, a lectureship and a greenhouse that bear his name.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 73 years, Lucile.

Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending.