Saying Goodbye: Dr. Mary Alleman, a Meticulous Teacher-Scholar

Duquesne University lost an excellent teacher, researcher, colleague and friend when Dr. Mary Alleman, associate professor of biological sciences, lost her battle with cancer and passed away on June 11, 2012.

A well-respected experimentalist and researcher with a unique analytical ability to cut to the essence of problems, Alleman delved into fundamental research in epigenetic control of gene expression and plant genomics. Her work is highly regarded in the field and recognized as making seminal contributions to the understanding of genetic control mechanisms.

Alleman routinely was invited to serve on grant review boards at the National Science Foundation, a clear indicator of her stature in her discipline. Her years at Duquesne were marked by a consistent advocacy of honors programs and courses in the Bayer School and her emphasis on engaging both undergraduate and graduate students in meaningful, challenging research experiences.

"Mary held the highest standards for her students and her colleagues, but she always applied those same high standards to herself," said Dean David Seybert, as he shared the news with his faculty. "Although some students struggled with Mary's high standards and expectations, she always pushed her students to be better and to do more than they thought they were capable of. And to those students who engaged themselves and truly applied themselves, Mary would always go to extraordinary lengths to guide their learning."

In working with colleagues and administrators, Alleman was known for speaking her mind. "We always knew exactly where Mary stood on any given issue, and personally, I could always count on Mary to hold me accountable for my words and for my decisions," Seybert shared. "I always considered myself fortunate and considered it a sign of her friendship that Mary felt she could be so forthright. I will miss her unannounced and surprise visits to my office."

Alleman's lab was next door to Dr. David Lampe's, associate professor of biological sciences. "She'd just show up in my office, plop down and start talking," Lampe said.

In a discipline requiring specificity, "She was probably the most detail-oriented person in the department," recalled Lampe, who was recruited to Duquesne by Alleman's late husband, Dr. John Doctor.

Not only did she keep detailed databases of years of her own research on maize genetics and cross-breeding, she would track all sorts of information, from who taught which courses and when to enrollment and course loads of the entire department. "She was just famous for that," Lampe said.

Alleman earned both her bachelor's and doctoral degrees in genetics from the University of California at Berkeley. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, she began her academic career at Duquesne with an appointment as research assistant professor of biological sciences in 1994. Two years later, Alleman received a tenure-track appointment as assistant professor and earned her promotion to associate professor in 2002.

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