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Alvalyn Eunice Woodward
LSA Minutes


Our colleague Alvalyn Eunice Woodward, distinguished scholar, innovative teacher and beloved human being, was blessed with the priceless gift of great longevity; yet she remained youthful in spirit throughout her long life. Gradually failing health in her last few months culminated in death at the age of ninety-four on March 23, 1979, in the Methodist Home, Charlotte, North Carolina, where she had lived since 1959.

Dr. Woodward was born in Niagara, Dakota Territory, on May 29, 1884, five years before North and South Dakota were annexed as our 39th and 40th states. She was the first of three children born to Charles Erwin and Alice Bogen Woodward. Her sister Ida Charlotte (Lottie), sixteen months younger than Alvalyn, lived to the age of seventy-five, but her brother Erwin, five years youner than she, died tragically of appendicitis in his teens. Early in Alvalyn's childhood the family moved to Rochester, New York, and she received all of her education through college in that vicinity. While she was in grade school, the Woodwards moved to a farm on the outskirts of the city, and she attended the last three grades in a one-room country schoolhouse. Her father maintained a business in Rochester in addition to farming part-time; thus during the high school years he and the children commuted into town by horse and buggy when roads were passable. If roads were too bad for the horse, they could catch a work train as far as the city station and proceed by trolley car or walking. Alvalyn attended the Rochester Free Academy, pursuing the "Latin scientific course" in preparation for a science-oriented career. Her burning ambition was to be a doctor even though medicine was a profession not readily open to women at that time. Although she would have liked to go to Cornell University because it had a medical school, she matriculated instead at Rochester University where she was awarded a scholarship. Through her four undergraduate years she continued to commute from her rural home. Majoring in sciences, she graduated in 1905, Phi Beta Kappa, with the Ph.B. degree. Hers was only the second graduating class including women admitted for the full four years at Rochester. By this time she realized that medicine was out of the question; hence she adopted teaching as her professional goal. A fascinating historical sidelight of her undergraduate days was that Susan B. Anthony and some of her followers frequently attended the teas given by the small group of women students at the University. Miss Susan would also drop in to chat with them informally in their day room. Although Alvalyn Woodward was not a vociferous champion of women's rights, she was nevertheless one who by shining example participated directly in the movement which has expanded the cultural and economic horizons for women in this century.

Upon the recommendation of Professor Dodge, teacher of animal biology at Rochester, Alvalyn while still an undergraduate spent a summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She was captivated by the unfamiliar seashore fauna and by the ferment of biological research there. Later she frequently returned to Woods Hole as a summer investigator. Her teaching career began at Rochester High School, where she taught during part of her senior year. After graduating from college she held high school teaching positions in Spencerport, New York, Vassar, Michigan, and Seneca Falls, New York. In 1910-1911 she returned home to help care for her mother and during this period took courses toward the M.S. degree she received from Rochester in 1911. At this juncture Professor Dodge again exerted an important influence on her career by recommending that she spend a summer at the University of Michigan Biological Station at Douglas Lake, Michigan. Her decision to do so was fortunate, for she so impressed Professor George R. LaRue, Director of the Station, that he encouraged her to come to Michigan for doctoral training.

Following a year as Acting Head of the Biology Department at Central State Teacher's College in 1911-1912, Alvalyn enrolled as a graduate student at Michigan for the three years 1912-1915. During this time she spent the summers at Woods Hole working with her major Professor, Otto C. Glaser, on physiological aspects of fertilization in sea urchins and starfishes. Her thesis, entitled "Studies in Fertilization," was accepted for award of the Ph.D. in 1918. A major paper on fertilization published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology that year establishes her reputation as a recognized investigator. In 1915-1916 she served as Assistant professor at Vassar College, from 1916-1920 as Instructor at Simmons College, from 1920-1923 as Demonstrator in Zoology at Amherst College, from 1923-1925 as Assistant Professor of Biology at North Carolina College for Women, and from 1925-1927 as Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Maine. She came back to Michigi for the two years 1927-192.9 as Research Associate in Cancer Research. Her opporte to stay here came when President Alexander G. Ruthven, who had known her as a graduate student, offered a position as Assistant Professor of Zoology to fill a vacancy. She accepted with the understanding that she could develop her own course in physiology. Thus she became the first woman appointed to the regular staff in the history of the Zoology Department, and she remained its only woman staff member until her retirement at the age of seventy in 1954 following twenty-five years of service.

Dr. Woodward was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Theta Eta, Sigma Xi, American Association of University Women, American Association of University Professors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Zoologist, American Physiological Society, Detroit Physiological Society, Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, Member of the Corporation of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and the Women's Research Club. She was among the group of faculty members who organized the Women's Research Club at Michigan. In 1950-195I she was President of the Women of the University Faculty. She was the author of 11 published papers, including studies on Orthoptera, fertilization, parthenogenesis, cell division, the effect of X-rays on protoplasm, and hibernation in chipmunks. Unquestionably her research effort in later years was stunted by the burden of caring for her father, semi-invalid sister and an aunt who came to live in her Ann Arbor home. She always loved teaching, particularly because it brought her into contact with inquiring young minds. Several graduate students received their Ph.D's under her direction.

After retirement Dr. Woodward maintained her residence in Ann Arbor for several years but in 1959 moved to North Carolina. She kept in excellent physical condition by housework and gardening. After her sister died in 1960 she was able to indulge in her passion for travel. She made several trips to Europe and visited Hawaii and Alaska. It was on her return from the Alaska trip with her cousin DorothyFulton that I last saw her when she was about ninety. She was still her regal self, as alert and vivacious as ever. As long as I knew Alvalyn I never heard her dwell on the past. With her the future was what counted.

Dr. Woodward's nearest surviving relatives are three cousins, Miss Dorothy E. Fulton of Charlotte, N.C., Mrs. Bernard E. Harkness of Geneva Falls, N.Y., and Mrs. Jon Lundgren of Los Angeles, California. We mourn with them and other relatives and friends and extend our deepest sympathy.

Norman E. Kemp September 21, 1979