William L. Steinhart died on Saturday, July 4, 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
(President Clayton Rose sent the following message to the Bowdoin community on July 8, 2020)
To the Bowdoin community,
I am saddened to inform you that Linnean Professor of Biology Emeritus William Steinhart passed away at the age of seventy-eight at his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Saturday, July 4, 2020. Bill had been a member of the biology department faculty for thirty-three years, and he was dedicated to combining his interests in genetics, molecular biology, and virology with opportunities to engage undergraduates in laboratory research.
Bill was born on May 31, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964 with a major in chemistry and earned a PhD in biochemistry at Johns Hopkins University in 1968. From 1968 to 1971, he was a captain in the United States Medical Service as a biochemist at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland. From 1971 until he joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1975, he was a research associate in biochemistry at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey, where he undertook research on the interaction of the herpes simplex virus type 1 membrane with human cell membranes. At Bowdoin, he continued his research into understanding this virus, which was implicated in tumor transformation. In 1999 he was named Bowdoin’s first Linnean Professor of Biology.
Over the years, Bill authored or coauthored numerous papers in scientific journals and presented his research in lectures and at conferences, on subjects that included cymbidium mosaic viruses in orchids, the molecular genetics of plant development, and techniques for chromatin condensation and silencing of the human gene that results in fragile X syndrome, a heritable condition that results in mental disability. Over the course of his career, Bill’s research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Maine Division of the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Orchid Society. He also secured grants that enabled the College to develop the curriculum and to obtain the laboratory equipment essential to research and teaching in the rapidly expanding field of molecular genetics.
In addition to his service to Bowdoin, Bill represented Maine at the National Bioethics Institute in Oregon in 1998 and served on the Medical Advisory Committee for the State Board of Pesticide Control.
Bill married Sydnae Morgan Rouse in 1967. For many years, Sydnae was a music librarian at Bowdoin. Bill and Sydnae shared a passion for handweaving textiles, often creating works that were displayed in ecclesiastical contexts—paraments, vestments, banners, and tapestries. Bill’s interest in Renaissance arts extended to music as well. He played the oboe, English horn, and viola da gamba, often accompanying the Bowdoin Chamber Choir or other music ensembles. He developed a deep interest in orchids in his childhood; he was a founding member of the Maine Orchid Society, a recognized authority on the botany of this extraordinary family of flowering plants, and a careful caretaker of a number of rare and unusual orchids.
Julianne and I join the entire Bowdoin community in extending our sympathies to Sydnae, his wife of fifty-three years; his daughter, Siri M. Lalime, of Spring, Texas; his colleagues at Bowdoin and elsewhere; and the generations of students who were the beneficiaries of his dedication as a teacher and a researcher.