Dorothea J. Widmayer ’52


A photo of Dot Widmayer '52

Dorothea “Dot” J. Widmayer ’52, professor emerita of biological sciences, passed away on March 6.

Teaching introductory biology and genetics, and carrying out research on gene action and expression in the protozoan Paramecium aurelia, Dot had a great positive influence on many students throughout her long career at Wellesley, from 1961 until 1996. She also had a lasting impact on fellow faculty across the College and especially in the Science Center, where she was faculty director during its construction in the 1970s. Her expertise in planning academic science buildings was recognized across the country, and she became a consultant for science-building processes at many colleges.

After graduating from Wellesley, Dot received her Ph.D. from Indiana University and taught briefly at Simmons College before returning to teach at Wellesley. Dot’s positive influence and mentorship were felt by colleagues in the biological sciences department and throughout the College, because of her clarity, knowledge, wisdom, and insightful comments on issues brought up during informal discussions and in department and Academic Council meetings. She taught a course on Darwin in the First-Year Cluster, an interdisciplinary program, showing her interest and support of experimental learning and collaboration. She was an active member of many College committees and a strong positive influence on each of them.

Dot loved to travel. There is a wonderful picture of her and her mother riding elephants in India in the 1960s. Later, Dot and her longtime friend, Eleanor Webster, professor emerita of chemistry, traveled widely, from the Galápagos to the U.S.S.R., and chased total solar eclipses around the world.

Dot was an energetic participant in faculty crew and aqua aerobics at the College, where she was also very supportive of, and an outstanding member of, Friends of the Greenhouse, of the Library, and of Athletics, as well as many College committees. She was active in the First Parish Sherborn Unitarian Universalist Area Church, especially in helping run its Good As New Shop. She had an abiding interest in collecting books, and after retirement, she and Eleanor ran a used-book business, Retired Books, out of their house on a steep hill in Sherborn. She is survived by a niece and a nephew and their spouses, and by her goddaughter, Alison Campbell, daughter of former Dean of Students Molly Sanderson Campbell ’60.

Dot enriched the lives of all who knew her. She cared deeply about Wellesley College and its community. She was supportive of every aspect of the College, from its academic pursuits, to sports, to music and art. She was committed to Wellesley’s best values and was an extraordinary mentor to so many students and to colleagues across the College community.

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