Biology

BIOGRAPHICAL ABSTRACT OF JAMES R. VAUGHAN

James Roland Vaughan (1928-1998) was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of nearby Slatington high School, Class of 1946. He enlisted and served on a U.S. Navy cruiser during World War II (1946-1948), after which he enrolled at Muhlenberg College as a biology major, graduating in the Class of 1952. He then earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biology from Lehigh University, specializing in bacteriology and biochemistry. Dr. Vaughan joined the Muhlenberg faculty in 1956, and served as head of the Department of Biology for 25 years (1955-1990). He retired after 40 years of faculty service in 1996 as a distinguished senior professor. The year of his retirement he received the Alumni Association Award for distinguished exceptional service to Muhlenberg College. He was without question a great teacher, scholar, leader, patriot, family man, friend to all who knew him, and a truly distinguished individual in possession of the very best that we call human. He was an exceedingly proud man with irreproachable integrity.  He valued honesty above all else and above all other human qualities. He was scrupulously candid without being blunt or rude to anyone. He had a terrific sense of humor, and he had a warm and genuine smile that was an integral part of his greetings. Without exception, he was civil and dignified, and he approached every situation with the most optimistic attitude and consistently found and added some humor at the most challenging of times.

First and foremost, Jim defined himself as a teacher. He had boundless pride in being a teacher, and although he was an accomplished and published researcher, he considered his teaching to be his scholarship. His knowledge was current, comprehensive, and he articulated it in an effective, entertaining, and meaningful way. He liked placing what he was teaching in a historical context, and liked reminding his listeners that hard and persistent work with no small amount of good fortune have been as important in advancing science as any stroke of real or suspected genius. He liked to remind students that what work you dedicate yourself to must also be work you enjoy; he reasoned that if you were having fun you were more likely to find life to be productive, rewarding, and helpful to others. It is accurate to claim that Dr. Vaughan taught one of the first formally designated biochemistry courses in a liberal arts college here at Muhlenberg in the early 1960s. Above all else he knew that his reputation as an effective teacher would be forever confirmed by what his students accomplished, and it gave him the most pleasure to learn about and share the successes of every student engaged in the study of biology. He was sincerely committed and passionately interested in subjects that spanned the breath of the discipline, from molecules to ecosystems, and it pleased him to share that in addition to his molecular biology specialty he also taught an ecology course as a young Muhlenberg Assistant Professor . This makes the Biology Department Vaughan Summer Research Grant especially appropriate for students interested in the study of life at any level.

(written by Dr. Daniel Klem)

"Jim Vaughan '52 was among my most memorable professors. The skill with which he taught, the respect he showed students, the imagination he displayed in making concepts come alive – these are all qualities I try to emulate today with my students."
JEAN BJORENSON '73, Senior Lecturer, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison