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In Memoriam: Peter Wimmer

February 25, 2016

Middlebury notes the death of a former faculty member, H. Peter Wimmer, who was Assistant in Instruction for the Department of Biology from 1972 until his retirement in 2000. Wimmer, a longtime resident of Shoreham, died on February 18 at the age of 77.

For generations of Middlebury College students, Wimmer was the primary lab instructor in organismal biology, genetics and evolution, and cell biology. His colleague Vickie Backus, senior associate in science instruction, said, “He took his teaching very seriously and was always willing to go the extra mile with his students.”

“The biology faculty admired Pete’s energy, knowledge, and passion for the natural world and life science,” said Tom Root, Professor of Biology. “Whether sharing tales about animals in Lake Champlain or insisting that introductory biology students do quality experiments, Pete’s excitement and childlike curiosity were infectious and gave us a deeper understanding of our world.”

A natural historian and entomologist, Wimmer earned his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Vermont. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Lehigh University.

After retirement Wimmer studied the distribution of aquatic insects on Vermont’s third-highest mountain, Camel’s Hump, and was active with the Invertebrate Scientific Advisory Group to the Vermont Endangered Species Committee, a division of the State Agency of Natural Resources.  Backus recalled, “Pete wrote the group’s position paper on the effect of lampricide application on the larvae of Vermont’s freshwater mussels, and was a force in recommending that several invertebrates be listed as threatened or endangered species in the state.”

Ian Worley, a professor emeritus of environmental studies at UVM, said, “The crowning achievement of Peter’s professional life was his time serving on the Endangered Species Committee with such dedication, hard work, and passion.” 

Funeral arrangements were private; his colleagues are planning a celebratory memorial fit for an entomologist for a time “when the weather is fine for a picnic, and the birds and bugs are all abuzz.”