The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.


William S. Benninghoff
LSA Minutes


William S. Benninghoff, Professor Emeritus of Botany and former Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, died on January 8, 1993 at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Dr. Benninghoff was born on March 23, 1918 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He earned his university degrees at Harvard: S.B. magna cum laude (1940), A.M. (1942) and Ph.D. (1948). During World War II he served as deck officer on the USS Tatum in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific, twice receiving the Bronze Star, and retiring in 1960 as Lt. Commander USNR (Intelligence). At the U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C. from 1948 to 1957, he was promoted from botanist in charge of field parties in Alaska, Iceland and Greenland to Chief of the Alaska Terrain and Permafrost Section.

In 1957 Dr. Benninghoff joined the faculty of the Department of Botany at the University of Michigan. During his academic career he taught general ecology, plant ecology, paleoecology and historical plant geography; he also served as advisor to numerous doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars. Dr. Benninghoff had a long standing association with the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. He was Assistant Director of the Botanical Gardens in 1965-66, Acting Director in 1975 and Director from 1977 to 1986.

Dr. Benninghoff had a broad range of research interests, which included plant community dynamics, Quaternary climate and vegetation changes as revealed through pollen analysis, polar biology, electrostatics and the study of airborne biological particles. He was a truly productive scholar, the author of numerous scientific papers and co-author of Man's Impact on the Antarctic Environment, a significant report by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research of the International Council of Scientific Unions. He was an active participant in many national and international scientific organizations and conferences and a member of the Explorers Club of New York and Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C.

Recognition of Dr. Benninghoffs professional achievements has included the Department of Interior's Meritorious Service Award, the Antarctic Service Medal of the United States, the Hiroshima University Commemorative Medal and honorary life membership as a founder of the International Association for Aerobiology. In 1990 the Nature Conservancy dedicated the Benninghoff Tract, a wetland preserve in the Two-Hearted Watershed in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Mount Benninghoff, named for him, rises 1,964 meters and overlooks the Ferrar Glacier in the trans-Antarctic Mountains (Knobhead, Antarctica, topographic map, 1993).

He is survived by his wife, Anne Stevenson Benninghoff, a son, Jon, a daughter, Valerie Cathey and mother, Edith E. Benninghoff.

Erich E. Steiner and Francis C. Evans