Wetterhahn impacted many at Dartmouth
By Elysa L. Jacobs, News Editor
Published on Wednesday, June 18, 1997
Since Chemistry Professor Karen Wetterhahn's death on June 8, many have been amazed at the attention the loss has gained at Dartmouth and around the world.
"The international outpouring of sympathy and condolence and shock, from not only the scientific community but former students of hers at all levels has been truly outstanding," Chemistry Department Chair John Winn said. "She clearly had an impact far beyond Dartmouth."
College President James Freedman said in a statement Wetterhahn's death was a loss for the Dartmouth and scientific communities.
"We grieve as well for our Dartmouth community, for her students, colleagues and friends, all of whom have come to love her generosity of spirit, rely on her talents and respect her groundbreaking work," Freedman said. "For the scientific community, [Wetterhahn's] death represents the loss of one of its brightest lights."
Wetterhahn will also be missed by the chemistry department, Winn said. She was "the international expert of chromium metal toxicity and that represents nearly 20 years of research by her and her research group."
Winn said the College "lost someone who impacts as wide and ranging an area as an academic scientist could be," as well as the first female faculty member in the chemistry department.
Wetterhahn was a leader in the merging categories of biology and chemistry and taught a variety of courses, he said.
The chemistry department will "go on but we know that we won't find anyone with the breadth and depth and energy that Karen brought to the department," Winn said.
Wetterhahn "will always be someone we will have as a model of what was best in academia," he said. "We will do our best to continue the traditions and foundations that she laid in so many areas."
During her time at the College, Wetterhahn had a tremendous impact on many areas outside the classroom as well.
"There was not an area of Dartmouth that she did not touch,"
Winn said. "She was a great hockey fan."
Wetterhahn was dedicated to "paving the way for women in the sciences," according to the Dartmouth Alumnae Magazine, who named her one of the 11 Most Influential Women at Dartmouth.
She co-founded the Women in Science Project because of her concern about the decline in women pursuing majors in the sciences, WISP Director Mary Pavone said.
WISP was founded in 1990 which coincided with an all-time low of female science majors in the senior class at the College -- only 12 percent.
"Karen was very concerned about this," Pavone said.
Wetterhahn had just become the dean of graduate studies, the first woman in such a position at the College, she said.
Pavone said Wetterhahn was a spokesperson for women. All of the eulogies at Wetterhahn's funeral commended her encouragement of women interested in the sciences, she added.
Pavone said Wetterhahn made a powerful impact as a role model and mentor by demonstrating her ability to balance conducting major research, being a member of the faculty and performing her administrative abilities.