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George W. Folkerts (1938 - 2007)

(From the Department of Biological Sciences website)

George W. Folkerts was born November 26, 1938 and died December 14, 2007 at his residence in Auburn. He was a valued member of Trinity Lutheran Church and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University for the past 38 years. He earned a B.A. degree in zoology and a M.A. degree in botany from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in herpetology from Auburn University. During his career as a teacher and researcher, George studied every aspect of nature. His comprehensive knowledge of the plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates inhabiting the Southeast was second to none, and he was a renowned expert in the ecology of disappearing habitat types and declining species. George’s passion for conserving nature made him a leader for local, state, and national conservation efforts. Part of his legacy for these efforts was his being honored by having multiple native species named after him. In the late 1990s, he led a successful effort to save Auburn University’s Davis Arboretum from building encroachment and ensure its preservation as a sanctuary for native plants. During his tenure as a faculty member at Auburn University, George was a dedicated teacher who loved teaching and was loved by his students; however, his purpose was never to be the teacher but, rather, to teach students to learn. He won numerous teaching awards and exposed countless students to the wonders of the natural world both in the classroom and field. His courses were truly inspirational and his classroom teaching style was one in which students were simultaneously challenged and made to feel comfortable in the presence of a friend and mentor. He successfully trained many graduate students who have gone on to secure positions as teachers and scientists across the United States. George was kind to all who met him, generous with the time he offered to others, and humble despite his exceptional accomplishments. He had a magnetic personality that enlivened every gathering and made him a beloved member in the local trivia community.

George is survived by his loving wife, Debbie (Dr. Debbie Folkerts), his sister, Trudy, his daughters Molly and Merrill, and his son Evan.