Eastern Illinois University was established in 1899, and from its beginning the importance of the botanical sciences was recognized. Two terms of botany were required for the four year program. Dr. Otis W. Caldwell, a botanist, was one of the original faculty members. He taught all of the biology courses and initiated the acquisition of a greenhouse. Caldwell was the first in a series of talented and dedicated botany professors including Edgar N. Transeau, Ernest L. Stover, Hiram F. Thut and John E. Ebinger. These and many other professors incorporated a field component into almost all classes. This dedication to the study of plants in their natural habitat led to one of the finest programs in the nation for training field botanists. By 1923, a formal Botany Department was established and in the late 1960’s EIU began awarding a M.S. in Botany. In the 60’s, the department greatly expanded with 15 faculty hires and over 40 different undergraduate and graduate courses were offered with 95% having a lab component. The excellence of the program was recognized in Illinois where organizations such as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Natural History Survey relied on graduates from the EIU Botany Department for their field botanists. In 1992, the American Phytopathological Society recognized the department for its contribution to plant pathology. Between 1913 and 1993, six hundred and nine students graduated with degrees in Botany, and 121 continued to receive their doctorates in botanical fields. Although numbers of botany majors rose during early to mid 1990’s, an administrative decision was made in 1998 to combine the Botany Department with the Zoology Department into a Biological Sciences Department. Since the merger, the B.S. in Botany was eliminated. Unfortunately, the elimination of this Botany Department is another example of past national trends to eliminate Botany Departments even with exceptional reputations.
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