Willard Van Engel, legendary Chesapeake Bay blue crab researcher, passed on Dec. 25, 2009 at the age of 94.
From the Daily Press in Newport News, VA (link):
"HAYES - Dr. Willard A. Van Engel (known as "Van"), professor emeritus with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, died Dec. 25, 2009, at the age of 94.A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Dr. Van Engel received his bachelor and master degrees in the late 1930s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Van was stationed in Europe, where he served as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. In 1946, he moved to Yorktown and became affiliated with VIMS (which was then named the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory), where he developed an interest in blue crab research.
At a time when calculations were done with slide rules and adding machines, Van and his colleagues were on the cutting edge of research in the Chesapeake Bay. Van's early papers on the blue crab fishery formed the fundamental nucleus of work in the field. He and his colleagues at the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory, in the late 40s, had the great foresight to create what has grown to be the diverse academic community of VIMS today. In 1947, Van accurately predicted the need for keeping duplicates and reprints of scientific papers and reports in a centralized location, thus, Van became the founder of the VIMS Library. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1948, Van and others, who at the time called themselves the "Brackish Boys," created what later became known as the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society, of which Van was the first Secretary-Treasurer. William W. Warner, the author of Beautiful Swimmers, called Van "the complete estuaries biologist, as much at home in theoretical discussions with his scientist colleagues as he is in meeting with watermen throughout the Bay . . . ."
Besides his key relationships with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, industry, and watermen, Van also foresaw the need for a fisheries survey for the blue crab, which has become the longest ongoing data set for the blue crab, or any other Portunid (swimming) crab worldwide. Van's varied research interests included many areas we take for granted today such as the relationship between recruitment dynamics and environmental parameters. When Van retired from VIMS in 1985, at the age of 70, he was the longest serving employee at almost 39 years. A year later, Van created a fellowship to support graduate student research on crustaceans.
In recent years, he received two significant recognitions. In 2003, VIMS presented Dr. Van Engel its first Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding academic and scientific research contributions and continued support to VIMS, and in 2006, the College of William and Mary presented him an honorary doctorate of science. After retirement, he enjoyed riding his horses, sharing with his friends and being an active member of the Gloucester Point Rotary Club.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Maurice and Frieda Aaron Van Engel; and brothers, Earl L., and Maurice B. Van Engel.
The Van Engel Fellowship Board would like to extend sincere appreciation and thanks to Jerry and Anne Edwards for their friendship, love and care they contributed to the life and times of this wonderful man. At his request, services will be private and to continue the legacy he established for students, memorial contributions may be made to The Willard A. Van Engel Fellowship, Inc., VIMS, c/o Robert Harris Jr., Treasurer, P. O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062-1346. "