Former biology professor dies

Former professor Paul Spiegler, who served as a lab coordinator and taught introductory biology to non-science majors last semester, died of prostate cancer over the weekend.

Spiegler, who earned his master’s degree from GW in 1959, has been teaching here ever since, said biology professor Robert Knowlton. Knowlton said Spiegler, who was in his early 70s, was an “institution” in the biology department and was its oldest active member.

“He had just such a big influence on everything that was going on in the department,” Knowlton said. “His contributions were manifested in rather subtle and unselfish ways.”

“He didn’t act old, that’s for sure,” Knowlton added. “He was always a lot of fun and just a very interesting person. He knew a lot about everything from politics to cooking.”

Knowlton said Spiegler was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago. He said Spiegler kept teaching his “baby bio” course through the fall semester and that he “just wanted to stick it out until the very end – and he did. By the start of the current semester, he was so weak and on so many medications, he was forced to step teaching even though he didn’t want to.”

Spiegler also worked for the National Institute of Health and took up the job of coordinating biology laboratories after his retirement from the NIH. He was also an avid painter, and Knowlton said he is believed to have completed more than 200 works.

Knowlton recalled that Spiegler shared his enthusiasm for field trips, often accompanying Knowlton to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and North Carolina.

“He was extremely helpful to me in terms of counseling me on suitable places to go on field trips in the area,” Knowlton said. “His knowledge of the Washington area – his knowledge of everything – is phenomenal.”

A memorial for Spiegler will be held Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Marvin Center third floor amphitheater.

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