Frank Mittermeyer joined the Elmhurst College faculty in 1969 as an instructor in the biology department. This year, after 44 years of teaching, he retired from Elmhurst as a full professor of biology, the founding director of the Patterson Center for the Health Professions—and beloved mentor to generations of students.
“When I think about the teachers who have had the biggest impact on me, Dr. Mittermeyer is the first one I think of,” wrote Brenda Fann ’88, MD. “He was a great role model, and so supportive. You could always go to him and know that you would get help.”
To honor Dr. Mittermeyer’s commitment to Elmhurst College and to its students, the College has established the Frank Mittermeyer Fund for Student Success.
Designed to support students in the health professions as they transition to the next phase of their careers, the Mittermeyer Fund will help students pay for graduate school exams, travel required for job interviews and other profession-related expenses—costs which can be as much as $1,000.
“Sometimes students have to give up an opportunity because they can’t afford it,” said Dr. Mittermeyer. “The new fund fills a great need for the Patterson Center, and it will have a significant impact on students who are working hard to launch careers in health care.”
At Elmhurst, Dr. Mittermeyer’s primary teaching and research interests focused on microbiology and virology.
“Frank made microbiology come alive for us,” wrote Judith Paice ’79, Ph.D., RN, director of the Cancer Pain Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“He constantly organized real-world experiments that made the information meaningful. It was more than 30 years ago, yet I vividly remember a study that required sampling pond scum, door handles and Dinty Moore stew to evaluate bacterial content.”
Dr. Mittermeyer gained wider celebrity several years ago, when he participated in a project involving tomato seeds that had been sent to the International Space Station. In an effort to see if outer space causes genetic damage to seeds, Dr. Mittermeyer and his students grew the seeds in his backyard, ate the ripened tomatoes, planted the next generation of seeds, and reported any observed anomalies to NASA.
As Dean Alzada Tipton remarked in a recent recognition speech, “The project elicited any number of references to ‘attack of the killer tomatoes.’”