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Founder of Natural History Museum dies

- April 27, 2009


Carl Rettenmeyer, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology died April 9. He was 78.

Rettenmeyer, who lived in Storrs, joined the UConn faculty in 1971 and retired in 1996. Internationally recognized for his research on New World army ants, he also produced a DVD on the subject.

Rettenmeyer was founding director of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. During his years at UConn, he taught courses in biology, social insects, and photography for biologists.

Gregory Anderson, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, says Rettenmeyer was always “bigger than life. He knew more, he worked harder, he did more, he cared more than almost everyone – often everyone combined.”

Anderson says that it was Rettenmeyer’s energy and that of his wife, Marian, that ‘made’ the Museum of Natural History. The museum opened in 1985.

He adds, “Carl was a world-class naturalist, and one of the last great comprehensive naturalists in the world. He was a mentor and a role model for so many for so much.”

Rettenmeyer completed his undergraduate work at Swarthmore College and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1962. He taught there from 1960 to 1971.

He was an officer in many professional societies. At UConn he served on the University Senate from 1989 to 1990, and was the executive officer of the Biological Sciences Group at UConn from 1983 to 1985.

He authored and co-authored many scientific papers about social insects, and had his photographs published in many books and magazines.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Marian, his daughter Susan, his son Ron, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place on May 30, at 11 a.m. at Storrs Congregational Church, at the corner of Route 195 and North Eagleville Road.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Carl Rettenmeyer to the American Cancer Society or another charity of choice.

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