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ONU Professor Terry Keiser has made biology fun for hundreds of students


Ask biology professor Terry Keiser what his special field of interest is and he'll say "fish stuff, because it's a good indicator of what's going on environmentally and if you're a biologist you really care about that." A generation of Ohio Northern students have caught that enthusiasm, commitment, and just plain fun of biology from Professor Keiser, a 1964 ONU graduate and now chair of the Department of Biological and Allied Health Sciences and also chair of the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

Many of these ONU biology graduates are using their knowledge and experience in successful careers across the country and many stay in touch with Keiser -- there's the marine biologist in St. Petersburg, FL, the regional biologist with the Forest Service in Oregon, a physician in San Diego, a biology professor at the University of Michigan, and a colonel at the Pentagon.

For Keiser their success is what his teaching career is all about. "It's almost like they're your kids," he says. "You know you've had a significant part in their lives and you're proud of them."

Such rewards are the result of several unplanned career moves for Keiser. As an undergraduate from the Canton, Ohio area, he came to Ohio Northern with a plan for a career in pharmacy. "I worked in a drug store from the eighth grade through high school and I really thought I wanted to be a pharmacist," he recalls.

But pharmacy and eventually law studies gave way to his eventual career as a biologist and teacher. "Biology has always been fun," Keiser says. "Some studies say that no occupation has a higher level of job satisfaction than biology. I think biologists really like being biologists."

During his tenure at ONU he has helped to grow the department to include new programs, new facilities and to produce excellent graduates. "We've been fortunate to get and keep good faculty," Keiser says. "The University and its supporters have provided for the facilities to support the faculty."

In addition to the on-campus facilities, ONU's biology and science students have access to the Metzger Nature Center, located in Tuscarawas County, where biology students can utilize overnight accommodations and a lab facility as complete as those on campus. The center also hosts mock trial participants, clinical lab science, history students and the archaeology field school, as well as provides meeting and retreat space for university departments and board committees.

The biology program has also expanded through ONU's Cuba Center initiatives. Of the nine Northern students who studied in Cuba last fall, four were biology and science majors who were able to study at the Cuban Center for Marine Research, sailing on a research boat as part of the center shark project. The experience opens unlimited opportunities for the students, Keiser believes.

Keiser's love of biology, his commitment to teaching and his students are just part of the reason for his successful tenure at ONU. Recently his work was honored by a host of colleagues, former classmates and alumni who have established The Keiser Distinguished Lectureship in Life Sciences. The lectureship fund, with an endowment of more than $1 million, will bring nationally prominent life sciences scholars to ONU's campus each year to lecture and interact with students.