In Memoriam

The Biology department is sad to report that Professor Bill DeWitt passed away at home on May 3rd.  A member of the Class of 1961, Bill was a part of the biology department and the college since his return to Williams in 1967.  The many students who knew and admired him include the large number he taught in Biology 101 and in his very popular Clocks senior seminar.

We invite you to share a memory or offer condolences here.

Thank you.

16 thoughts on “In Memoriam

  1. Willy Stern '83

    In the spring of 1983, Prof. DeWitt performed a singularly unique and gracious act on my behalf in his Bio 200 class, a course which I was taken in the final semester before graduation. It was not until some 25 years later–and largely through a fluke–that I learned of his generous, if annonymous, act to help me out. He was a remarkable man and sui generis. We all feel his loss.

  2. Chiara Del Piccolo

    Professor DeWitt was assigned to be my freshman adviser, so he was the first professor I met at Wiliams. Going into our first meeting, I was very nervous, since I was somewhat intimidated by what I had read online about his long and successful career…not to mention the fact that the meeting was scheduled to take place only thirty minutes after I arrived back on campus from my WOOLF backpacking trip. I was also unsure about my course schedule. Coming from a small school where “course selection” referred to the choice of whether to take art or music, I was overwhelmed by the Williams course catalog. Professor DeWitt patiently helped me understand the process, recommended good professors, and explained how best to talk to professors (another thing I was scared to do). His comfortable manner put me at ease, and truly made me feel welcome at Williams–especially since I was still covered in dirt from the hike! He continued to advise me over the next three years, helping me decide how best to fulfill course requirements, deal with academic hardships, and prepare to apply to graduate school. He even talked me into taking what turned out to be my favorite class at Williams. Overall, Professor DeWitt’s insight, experience, and general good humor have really contributed to my experience at Williams.
    Chiara Del Piccolo ’14

  3. Greg Entis '69

    It is with sadness that I heard of the death of Bill DeWitt. He was one of the best teachers I have ever known. I had the privilege of taking his genetics class. His energy and passion were contagious. And, I still remember the Triumph TR-6 sports car he drove. Rest in peace. You made the world a better place by being in it. Condolences to his family on their loss.

  4. Patrick Burton '00

    Bill DeWitt was my instructor for my first and last Biology course at Williams. I fondly remember listening to his lectures in 101. The seminar course on molecular clocks I took in the spring of my senior year remains one of my favorite classes while at Williams. A fixture at the college, he will certainly be missed.

  5. Jared R. Lunkenheimer

    Dr. DeWitt was the greatest inspiration of my undergraduate experience. Biology 101 at Williams with Dr. DeWitt was directly responsible for my continued interest in the field and my eventual pursuit of a career in medicine. To this day, basic science concepts that he so eloquently described in lecture with such good humor have remained embedded in my thoughts and proved incredibly useful in learning to care for patients. He taught me how to critically engage the scientific literature, and he expected only the best from his students. His kindness and his teachings will stay with me for the rest of my life. The man was gift to his students and I can’t thank him enough. I wish his family the best. My condolences to his family and friends.

  6. Lauren Yeiser '10

    I will echo the general sentiments already expressed. Prof. Dewitt was not only an outstanding teacher but also a phenomenal mentor. His excitement and enthusiasm was contagious and he inspired his students to fully engage in material. I am grateful to have had him as a professor and send my condolences to his friends and family.

  7. Karl Galle '91

    In addition to all the memories of his incredible humor and intelligence that others have already mentioned here and in the article for the Record, Professor DeWitt will always be indelibly stamped in my mind as the person who gave the very first class lecture that I attended as a college undergraduate. It was a near-perfect introduction to Williams, as his chalk flew across the board and he launched into a characteristically passionate explanation of research on the origins of life, beginning with the Miller-Urey experiment. I recall having a grin pretty much plastered on my face by the end of the lecture on account of his enthusiasm and the clarity of his explanations (and also partly for how his matter-of-fact choice of topic offered a “free at last” sense of having definitively escaped my rural Texas school system where such subjects would not have been permitted). Coincidentally enough, I now give an origins-of-life lecture each semester to a core curriculum course of about 600-800 university students in Egypt — the last time just a few weeks ago — and I still think of Professor DeWitt each time I come to the Miller-Urey slide in my lecture. He leaves a great legacy in his passion for teaching across so many generations of students. I remain grateful for his efforts and offer sympathies and condolences to his family and friends.

  8. Joe Buccina

    I took the same seminar as my friend Dan Ohnemus, and I’d like to echo his thoughts: Prof. DeWitt was an excellent professor that inspired me to work in the field that I’m in today. He was also an incredibly kind person, and always willing to help out one of his students… whether in his clocks seminar, or 5 years after graduation while looking for a job. I’ll miss Professor DeWitt, as I know many of his other students will. Sending my thoughts and condolences to his family and friends.

  9. Tina Williams '75

    Bill DeWitt was one of my favorite Williams’ faculty. I was privileged to spend a summer collaborating on a project with Tom McGill and Bill DeWitt and got to learn how to look for proteins in mouse brains via gel electrophoresis under Bill’s patient guidance. I will always remember his dry wit and his wonderful stories. He and Tom made teaching look easy and both loved to talk and think about new data. They inspired me to spend my life in academia doing research. My best to Mary Lou, and Bill’s colleagues and friends. With fond memories of a wonderful man…

  10. Bronwen Loeb '84

    I had always loved biology prior to college but Biology 101 with Bill DeWitt solidified my interest and led me to major in Biology at Williams. My senior honors thesis with him was an amazing and challenging experience and in no small part contributed to my decision to attend graduate school in biology. Bill recommended MIT and off I went. My memories of Bill are always accompanied by a general sense of happiness and a profound respect. This will continue, though now colored by sadness. My deepest condolences to Mary Lou and his children as well as his Williams family. Bill was a good man.

  11. Bryce Inman

    Bill DeWitt taught me how to read and think about science. He helped me get to grad school, many years after I took his class and had graduated from Williams; he helped me get to where I am today. Thank you, Bill.

  12. Rob Pasco '70

    When Bill first returned to Williams, he lived in Hopkins house where he became a close friend and advisor to our group of six sophomores who lived there. For the next three years he enriched our lives joining in numerous activities – bringing his girl friend along. “DeWitt” was obviously going to be a great teacher, for he was brilliant, a good listener, and a loyal friend. I wish I had looked him up later in life, but will never forget all the good times we had together that seem like they were far more recent than forty plus years ago.

  13. david monnich '80

    What a loss – his class and teaching had a huge impact on my entire Willaims experience _ a real “teacher” – you can not replace someone like him………..

  14. Dan Ohnemus

    Bill’s seminar on biological clocks is among my fondest memories of my undergraduate years, and one of the main reasons I decided to stick with science for a career. His innate curiosity and effortless teaching style inspired me to understand not just PER/TIM expression patterns, but also how one can embrace the challenge of learning for a lifetime by chasing that curiosity throughout one’s life. All my love and thoughts go out to his family and colleagues!

  15. Derek Dean

    A stellar teacher who could weave a beautifully coherent story with nothing but chalk. A goof whose “virus costume” framed me because his sandaled feet looked like mine sticking out of that box. A true gentleman colleague who listened as thoughtfully as he spoke. I learned much from him and am very grateful. Thanks, Bill.

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