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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2018

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UMW prepares for the departure of Dr. Joella Killian

UMW prepares for the departure of Dr. Joella Killian


Staff Writer

After 34 years, the university is bidding farewell to one of its most renowned faces within the biology department, Dr. Joella Killian. With a doctoral degree in Entomology, Killian has proven to be a centripetal force behind student success throughout the department since she came to the university in 1984.

“She’s been a very enthusiastic member of our faculty with a positive impact on her students,” said chair of the biology department, Dr. Lynn Lewis.

Over the past weeks, the school has held three talks with prospective candidates wishing to grasp the soon vacant position. With the help of several students who attended any of these talks, the biology faculty are inching closer in finding the university’s next entomologist.

In the Spring of 1976, Killian finished her undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. After graduation, she decided to take a year off from school where, through medical technician and pathological work, she soon found out that medical work was not for her.

After a gap year, Killian returned to school, this time to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she earned her Master’s degree in botany. It was here where she partook in graduate research which focused on the development of a particular specie of dragonfly.

While performing this research, Killian fell in love with the study of entomology. Also, it was here that she developed a close bond with one of her professors which presented to her the realization that she could see herself teaching biology to college aged students for a living. 

Finally, after applying to schools across the Southeastern United States to complete earn the much-coveted Ph. D. in Entomology, she chose North Carolina State University because of the “bond that was shared with the colleagues [she] had made, and because [she] was just a North Carolina girl” said Killian.

Killian then flew from Raleigh, North Carolina to Washington DC, joking that geography was not her primary focus. It was here that she was offered an unexpected position directly in the field of which she had started to love.

According to Killian, after the “34 years that flew by,” she has decided to move on with her life. She has many plans to keep herself busy after her final semester here at Mary Washington. Traveling has always been a part of her life, and Killian hopes to be able to travel more with her husband.

 “My husband, Mike, and I have seen many of the contiguous states’ national parks, and also traveled most of the eastern portion of Canada,” said Killian. One of her largest plans is to cross the Trans-Canada Highway.

Among other things that Killian plans to do with her newfound free time, she mentioned strengthening her relationship with Friends of the Rappahannock, trying get back into piano, and that she would “love to learn Spanish because of frequenting the local Mexican restaurant in Thornburg.”

Thursday, February 1, the school concluded guest presentations from the three prospective entomologists aiming to take the soon vacant seat here on campus. From Iowa to California, these candidates were able to present the research that they had completed.  

These presentations were open to students across campus as well as the faculty from within the department. Students who were able to attend were also asked to fill out questionnaires ranking each candidate speaker on various aspects of their presentation. On top of this, some students from the department also had the chance to spend time with each speaker outside of the presentation.

“We try to take the student opinion with a grain of salt,” said Lewis. “Yes, definitely students do see things differently, so in some cases, there is more weight placed here than the presentations themselves.”

When asked what will be missed most, Lewis stated that, “it is her dedication for her students and the passion for what she does.”