Biology Department’s Laurel Appel Dies March 4

Bill HolderMarch 11, 20133min
Laurel Appel
Laurel Appel

Laurel Appel, adjunct associate professor of biology and senior research associate, died on March 4. She is survived by her husband, Michael Weir, and her children, Rebecca and Nathaniel.

The following announcement was made by Provost Rob Rosenthal, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, in an all-campus e-mail.

“Laurel Appel’s passion was equality of opportunity, and she developed and ran the Ronald E. McNair Program at Wesleyan for many years. This program provides support and nurturing of first generation college students and students in underrepresented groups for entry into graduate programs. In Laurel’s words, working with the program ‘was a continuation of the greatest part of being a teacher: helping a student accomplish something they did not think they were capable of doing… Gambling on the potential of students, and then helping them achieve that potential, was a job I had not realized I had spent a lifetime preparing for, but a fantastic job to have.'”

Laurel began teaching at Wesleyan in 1993, and her contributions to curricular and co-curricular life have been substantial. In addition to the McNair Program, she played a central role in life science initiatives funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and she was actively engaged in efforts to integrate the life sciences with the arts. Her explanations of human biology were featured prominently in the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s production, “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” which debuted at Wesleyan in 2006. Following that project, she was a key contributor to Wesleyan’s Science Choreography project. She was tireless in her efforts to enhance teaching of the life sciences beyond the traditional modes of instruction, especially through kinesthetic learning.

All of us who knew her feel a sense of deep loss. Please join me in offering heartfelt condolences to her family and to her colleagues in the Biology Department.”

A memorial service was held March 8 in memorial Chapel.

In her honor, the Laurel F. Appel Fund will support Wesleyan undergraduate students doing research in the summer in the biological sciences. Contributions can be made by check in Laurel’s memory to Wesleyan University and sent care of Marcy Herlihy, Wesleyan University, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459 or by calling 860-685-2523. Contributions may be made online at (please indicate that your gift is in memory of Laurel, and note in the comments section that your gift is for the Laurel F. Appel Fund).