John Morgan Allen

September 1, 1924April 20, 2011

Allen, John Morgan Ann Arbor, MI John Allen, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Michigan, died suddenly on April 20, 2011 as a result of a fall at home. John was born September 1, 1924 in Springfield, Missouri. During World War II, he served as an infantry rifleman in the 75th infantry division. He fought in the Ardennes during the difficult campaign of December 1944-January 1945, and in the Rhineland and Central Europe. He received three bronze stars for his service in these campaigns. In 1948 after the war, John earned a B.A. degree in zoology from Drury University. He received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1954. In 1952, he joined the University of Michigan as an instructor in the Department of Zoology. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1956, associate professor in 1960, and professor in 1964. In 1970, he received an honorary Sc.D. degree from Drury University. From 1966 to 1971, he served as chair of the University of Michigan's Department of Zoology. In 1978-79, John received the U of M's Undergraduate Teaching Award, a prestigious award that "honors faculty who have demonstrated outstanding ability in teaching undergraduate students." At the University of Michigan's Regents' meeting in May 1989, when John was named Professor Emeritus, the following remarks were entered into the Retirement Memoirs, "Professor Allen brought cell biology to Michigan and ushered in a wave of change in the faculty that continues to this day… His cytochemical studies were among the very first to permit an understanding, in specific chemical terms, of the functions of several intracellular organelles: notably the Golgi systems (which had long been deemed an artifact), and the then newly discovered lysosomes and peroxisomes… He served as principal mentor to predoctoral students and as associate mentor for other students. His generosity extended far beyond his own immediate circle of graduate students to seemingly all faculty and students who wished to learn the special technology that he had mastered and developed… Every course taught by Professor Allen proved important. His initial venture, 'Introduction to Experimental Cytology', paved the way in the late 1950's for the establishment-under his direction-of Michigan's first modern course in cell biology…From the 1970's onward, he helped develop several courses in biological sciences that fill the natural science distribution requirement and develop scientific literacy on the part of University of Michigan undergraduates who are non-science majors. That some of these students chose to enter sciences is a tribute to his inspiration." Following retirement, John devoted himself to his two great interests, woodworking and hiking/exploring. He designed and built many beautiful pieces of furniture which grace the homes of numerous family members and close friends. He and his wife, Edith (Teddy) spent more than 20 years in extensive volunteer field work for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula where their cabin is located. This work was one of the great joys of John's later life; he was truly a dedicated conservationist. In 2001, he and Edith received the Oak Leaf Award, which is the national Nature Conservancy's highest award for volunteer service. John felt this volunteer work in the field of conservation carried more significance and was more personally rewarding than any of his scientific achievements. In private life John was a constant and loving companion, friend, husband, and father. At the University, his students at all levels found him interested, encouraging and a source of great inspiration. His determination and strength of character were most recently evidenced by the way in which he forced himself to relearn how to walk following a debilitating illness. In all phases of life he held himself and others to high standards. He was a person of great integrity with a strong sense of personal responsibility. He will be sorely missed by all of us. John is survived by loving family and friends. His wife of 34 years, Edith Maynard of Ann Arbor; his daughter, Susan Allen of New Orleans, LA; Todd Sanford of New Orleans; Katharine and Frank Severson of West Sacramento, CA; Elizabeth Maynard and Paul Landgrebe of Valparaiso, IN; and Donald, Louise and Auston Maynard of Randolph, VT. Cremation has taken place. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, 101 E. Grand River, Lansing, MI 48906, or to the Huron River Watershed Council, 1100 N. Main, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, A public memorial celebration of John's life will take place on August 22, 2011 at 4 p.m. in the auditorium at the University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.


  • Memorial Service Monday, August 22, 2011

John Morgan Allen

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George Jones

May 9, 2011

John was Department Chair when I arrived at Michigan in 1971 and was largely responsible for my hiring there. He was a wonderful friend, a strong and sensitive leader and an outstanding scientist. For his friendship, leadership and person, he will be much missed.

April 27, 2011

It is always a pleasure to read about someone who had a zest for life and the beauty of the outdoor life.My prayers to the family and may you find comfort in the days ahead. 2cor.1:3,4

April 24, 2011

He was a wonderful family friend and remarkable scientist; someone whose memory we will always treasure. Underneath John's wit and veneer of lighthearted cynicism, was a sweetness of heart and a dedicated loyalty to his profession, his friends, and his colleagues which made the department and the university a better place to be. Elisa A. Frye (Billy) Clarkesville, Georgia

Steve Easter

April 23, 2011

John hired and promoted me in the old Department of Zoology. He was a principled and actively decent man who brightened the lives of everyone with whom he interacted. Though I saw him infrequently over the last few years, he will be missed.