From the greenhouse to the opera house, retiring faculty members leave their mark

Dick Michaels was among six longtime faculty members to retire in 2006. Together, they represent 239 years of teaching and service to Oberlin College, and their influence on the lives and minds of students is immeasurable.

Martin N. Ackermann, Professor of Chemistry
40 Years
An expert in organochemistry, Ackermann was praised by students over the years for his enthusiasm, lively demonstrations of chemical processes, and exceptionally well-organized presentations. His teaching approaches ranged from traditional labs and lectures to innovative workshops and one-on-one laboratory sessions. He often included students as co-authors when contributing to peer-reviewed journals, and he was considered a valuable advocate for the sciences at Oberlin through his involvement with the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Education and Committee on Professional Training, plus the Council on Undergraduate Research.

David H. Benzing, Roberts S. Danforth Professor of Biology
41 Years
Benzing, an internationally known tropical botanist, was invaluable in planning both the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies and the 2,000-square-foot greenhouse constructed atop Oberlin’s Science Center. He offered classes, laboratories, and field trips in the areas of plant systematics, ecology, evolution, and environmental science and was recognized as a rigorous teacher and conscientious advisor, always eager to share his fervor for botany. Numerous students assisted Benzing in his research, and many are now enrolled in PhD programs or working as professional biologists. Benzing’s skillful grant-writing won steady support for curriculum development, instrumentation, and facilities improvements, both for the biology department and his own projects. A fund has been established in his name to build a botanically diverse teaching collection to be housed in the biology department.

David H. Miller, Associate Professor of Biology
36 Years
Miller, who specializes in plant physiology and biochemistry, designed and implemented an introductory course on the organismal biology of animals and plants, an 8 a.m. lecture that boasts the largest enrollment of any course in the natural sciences and earns continued praise from graduates. Known as an energetic and knowledgeable teacher, Miller offered class handouts that freed students from frantic note taking, and instead encouraged careful observation. In 2001, he designed his own textbook for the Oberlin-in-London Program, taking full advantage of his surroundings. Miller’s own research has focused on algae, fungi, and most recently, soil remineralization.

Richard Miller, Wheeler Professor of Singing
46 Years
A leading lyric tenor, Miller has enjoyed an extensive career in Europe and America, performing with operas, oratorio concerts, and solo recitals. Also an internationally known vocal pedagogue, he has given master classes throughout the world and was a 15-year summer teacher at the Salzburg Mozarteum International Academy. At Oberlin, Miller’s research into vocal technique led to the creation of the Otto B. Shoepfle Vocal Arts Center, an acoustic laboratory that provides feedback on all aspects of the singing voice for student vocalists. Miller’s students have gone on to enjoy careers in major opera houses in America and in Europe, as well as faculty positions at leading schools of music.

Grover A. Zinn, Jr., William H. Danforth Professor of Religion
40 Years
A distinguished medievalist and church historian, Zinn taught an introductory survey of world religions, which, for non-religion majors, was their only exposure to the department. Students appreciated his openness, approachability, and passion, plus the extra efforts he put forth to ensure student success. An expert in medieval mysticism, biblical commentary, and intellectual history, Zinn has written books, chapters, and encyclopedia articles that are respected by scholars worldwide. He served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for four years and was honored by alumni and students last September in a symposium titled “Mysticism, the Bible, and Medieval Religious Experience.”