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Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI

OBITUARY

Dorothy McMeekin

February 24, 1932June 26, 2020

Dr. Dorothy McMeekin

Dorothy “Dot” McMeekin was a modest, kind, gentle person with a quiet strength and the sort of fortitude one needed to succeed in the years before women were accepted in the sciences.

Dorothy knew and understood the importance of the “local,” and the environment, long before it was widely appreciated, writing on the “local ecology” of our own Red Cedar area. She was a true citizen of her community with a life-long dedication to the human, plant and animal landscapes around us.

When Dorothy McMeekin entered science more than sixty years ago, there were few women in her field. Dorothy was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1932 to Vera Sarah Crockatt and Thomas Leroy McMeekin, a noted inventor and research chemist who developed a protocol for isolating insulin. Both parents supported Dorothy’s interest in biology and the natural world. Dorothy graduated from Wilson College in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry in 1953. Unusual for a woman at that time, after receiving her Master’s degree in Botany from Wellesley College in 1955, she went on to receive her PhD in Plant Pathology, Physiology and Bacteriology from Cornell University in 1959.

From 1959 to 1964, Dr. Dorothy McMeekin taught at Upsala College before moving to another teaching appointment at Bowling Green State University, 1964-1966. It was at Michigan State University where she put down roots with an academic appointment in the General Education Department of the College of Natural Science from 1966 to 1990 and then in the Botany and Plant Pathology department from 1990 until her retirement in 1997 as Professor Emerita.

Our dear and beloved Dorothy passed away in East Lansing at the age of 88 on June 26, 2020. She is survived by her sister, Elizabeth McMeekin-Lewis; brother, Thomas C. McMeekin, Sr.; a niece, Barbara L. Suchanec; nephews, Bruce A. Lewis, Bryan A. Lewis, and Thomas C. McMeekin Jr., as well as, four godchildren, and a host of devoted friends and many former students.

A real pioneer in so many ways, Dr. Dorothy McMeekin was ahead of her time, and remains so, with her rare combination of work in science and the arts. Her book Diego Rivera: Science and Creativity in the Detroit Murals focuses on the scientific symbolism in these visionary murals painted in the early 1930s.

During her tenure at Michigan State, she wrote a number of lab manuals, including "Ecology, Diversity, and Evolution," "Science, Matter & Life," "Heredity and Change," "Approaching the Environment," and "Integrated Studies." She also published original research on fungi in journals including Mycologia, Plant Growth Regulation, Mycology, Phytopathology and The Plant Disease Reporter, as well as, a book on plant diseases titled Fire Blight, Potato Blight and Walnut Blight.

Dr. McMeekin served on the board of directors for the Michigan Botanical Club and was a member of the American Phytopathological Society, the Mycological Society of America, the Society for Economic Botany, the Michigan Women's Studies Association, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi. In light of her exceptional work, Dorothy McMeekin was selected for inclusion in multiple editions of Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the Midwest and Who's Who in American Women. In recognition of outstanding contributions to her profession she was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the manner of Liberty Hyde Bailey, a noted Michigan naturalist and craftsperson, Dorothy McMeekin’s love for nature and the environment could be seen in the artistry she used to create works of practical art from local flora and fauna. When she retired, she helped with a course on prairie ecology; photographed rare ferns; cloned a pear tree from a graft and volunteered at the MSU library using her tailoring skills to do bookbinding and restoration.

A tall, striking woman with an elegant reserve that had an unusual dignity and power, anyone who knew Dorothy will remember the warm way she smiled with her eyes and her lovely, generous laughter. She cared deeply about her community, her family, her friends and the young people who were lucky enough to pass through her classes.

Fond memories and condolences may be shared with family and friends at the Gorsline Runciman website: www.greastlansing.com.

The service for Dorothy will be Thursday, August 6 at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Garden at University United Methodist Church in East Lansing.

View the recorded service at https://www.facebook.com/163145830381110/videos/2706021766298091/

Face masks are required, and social distancing will be observed.

Chairs will be provided by the church.

Those desiring may make donations to the Greater Lansing Food Bank or to a charity of one’s choice.

  • DONATIONS

  • Greater Lansing Food Bank

Services

  • Memorial Service

    Thursday, August 6, 2020

Memories

Dorothy McMeekin

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Gorsline Runciman

August 7, 2020

View the recorded service at https://www.facebook.com/163145830381110/videos/2706021766298091/

Nwaji Nefahito

August 6, 2020

I'm Sandra's sister and a person graced with knowing Dorothy. I only got to spend time with Dorothy when she and I were visiting the Seatons. I was always glad when Sandra or James told me that Dorothy was coming over. She was always so heartfelt and intense in a quiet kind of way but I always felt that it was more to her.
And now I know. I had only gotten to know the tip of the iceberg.
I always knew she was one of a kind, a woman that followed her own song but it was so gratifying to actually hear the song of her life.

Such a full life but she will be so terribly missed.
Please accept my sincere condolences.
Humbly,
Nwaji

Annie Seaton

August 6, 2020




At 8 (and for the next 40+ years!), I was entranced by our new neighbor, a tall, brilliant, striking woman who I can only describe as a taller Katherine Hepburn. I met Angela Davis at Auntie Dot’s house. I also remember seeing French films with Auntie Dot and attending lectures and performances.

I doubt Dorothy owned a television set (I never saw one), and she definitely did not own a computer. Dorothy was, however, acutely aware of the world around her, and was devoted to justice and fairness. She was an adherent to these things through her keen attentional sense: whether observing the natural landscape, or human behavior, Dorothy had a rare compassion and insight. She was an activist in the true, deep sense—active where she felt she was needed, generous, and engaged. She documented the local ecology and paid attention to global human rights with the same patient care.

Once the twins came, she was at our house even more-- seeming, often, to be the twins’ favorite person. “Auntie Dot!” Even when bedlam was breaking out around the Seaton house, Dorothy just smiled patiently and kept her counsel.

Dorothy was not only a highly accomplished plant scientist and mycologist, but also a scholar of art history, and especially, of Diego Rivera’s murals. Dorothy traveled to Mexico to learn more about Rivera’s artwork. And it was from Dorothy that I learned about Wellesley College, where I was to head myself—so in addition to so much, we shared that connection, as well.

I’ll close with a favorite memory of Dot—at a Thanksgiving dinner at our friend’s house in East East Lansing, the Mattsons. Dorothy, my beloved Aunt Nwaji, a former Black Panther, and the rest of our polyglot family—my Dad, who wrote for the Wall Street Journal and was a Classics professor, all in such variety and beauty and so happy to all be together.

Gladys Beckwith

August 6, 2020

Dorothy McMeekin was a kind, compassionate, caring woman and a good friend. I met Dorothy in 1966 when she came to teach at Michigan State University. We both taught in University College. Dorothy taught in the Department of Natural Science, and I was on the faculty of American Thought and Language. She was active in many organizations. I remember her being a member of the Faculty Associates as well as a strong supporter of women’s causes. Dorothy always attended our Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame events and the meetings of the Michigan Women’s Studies Association. A fine gardener and naturalist, we all knew that Dorothy was a great supporter of the environment. In 2018 when our dear friend Patricia Julius was critically ill, Dorothy and I hired a driver to take us up to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to be with Pat in her final hours. Dorothy’s passing is such a great loss to us all. She will be deeply missed.

Barbara Suchanec

August 5, 2020

My earliest memories are of Aunt Dorothy visiting us in Glenside, PA. Aunt Dorothy would visit and take me to parks to explore and have fun. I also remember that she had a hair dryer and would fix her hair and I would watch her. I thought she was beautiful. Our family moved to Tioga County, PA when my Dad accepted his first job as an elementary school principal. I was in first grade. Aunt Dorothy came to visit us at Christmas and sometimes in the summer no matter where we lived. As you can imagine, she attempted to teach us what types of trees or ferns we would see. Some I remember, some I do not. Undoubtedly, my friends did not know what tree-dwelling lichens were when they were in elementary school. I did. At one point she gave us a microscope and we would collect river samples and look at the samples under the microscope. Aunt Dorothy did crafts with me. We would make bracelets or weave potholders, or do beadwork. She gave me a loom, which I still have, to do beadwork and I still have the pattern she drew for me for my first bead project. I attached a photo of a piano bench cover. My Grandmother started it and Aunt Dorothy finished the embroidery. As you can see her perseverance was always there. Aunt Dorothy taught me how to ice skate when I was five years old. When she no longer used her skates, she gave them to me. I still have them.
I visited Aunt Dorothy in East Lansing twice (as an adult). The first time was when I went with family and friends to a Penn State / Michigan State Football game. Aunt Dorothy took us all on a campus tour, including the butterfly house. I didn’t go to the game, and the two of us had a nice afternoon hanging out in her back room overlooking her yard. The second time, I went with my daughter Kate on our way to Manistee, MI and stopped in for the night and part of the next day.
Thank you for celebrating Aunt Dorothy’s life.
Best regards,
Barb Suchanec

Amanda Seaton

July 20, 2020

I knew Auntie Dot (as we called her) my whole life. She was our across the street neighbor on Marigold. I have so many wonderful childhood memories of going to her house and admiring her wood burning stove, garden and her many natural and homemade wares. I love to garden today and I know part of my inspiration comes from the well spent time I had with Auntie Dot as child. You will be missed. Love you Amanda Seaton

John Beck

July 14, 2020

I got to know Dorothy when she attended brown bags I run at the MSU Museum focusing on the culture of work, workers and the workplace. She was a faithful attendee and always asked great questions and brought wonderful insights to the conversation. She often followed up by bringing notes for me concerning recent presentations. I will miss her. She really represents to me how to truly be an engaged intellectual and community member long after retirement. In that way, she can be a model to all of us.

Alixandra Summit

July 14, 2020

In 1990 I connected with Dr. Dorothy McMeekin at the Detroit Institute of Art. We stood there together, and she talked about her interest in science and art. She pointed out the embedded fossils on the incredible marble floor and showed me the fossil imagery in the murals that Diego Rivera had painted. Having the chance to talk to Dr. McMeekin about the way artists reflected and represented the environment in which they worked, supported the research I was doing on art, based on the local environment. Because the standards used to evaluate local art had often been based on a New York Aesthetic, talking to Dorothy was a turning point in my journey to establish the connection with the locale. She was so supportive and encouraging, and I will never forget the impact she had on my growth as an artist. It was phenomenal that I got to meet her and talk with her. It meant so much to me.

Jeremy Seaton

July 9, 2020

Auntie Dot,
You've been with me all my life, down the street from the house I lived in for my first 10 years on Marigold and a constant presence up until the end. You sewed together my Halloween costumes, in large part from scratch. The one most memorable to me is the Batman outfit. I don't know if I really appreciated back then all the work you put into that costume and the others, but I think I do now.
The presents you gave for Holidays and birthdays were different from most of the other presents I received; they were often intellectually challenging, such as old puzzle and problem solving books or unique and artistic, like Samurai Cat. It was always clear that great thought had been put into the selection process of those gifts.
You also introduced my sister and I to what was practically another world in the garden behind your house, with its exotic plant life and the many visiting felines, each of whom seemed to have a special, unique bond with you. You were able to love and interact with the cats and the other wildlife your garden attracted while never imposing yourself upon them and always patiently respecting distance when it seemed to be what the animals wished for. For so many of those cats, your garden seemed to be a second home and you, a best friend almost a confidant.
Through my high school years, you helped me get through my science classes, which was no easy feat of patience, I'm sure and after college you continued to give me practical advice regarding how to find jobs and how to behave at one. I learned about the world and its history from the stories of your many travels and a little about what things were like in the decades before I was born from the stories of your earlier life.

Thank you, Auntie Dot, for all this and for your never waning love and devotion.

--Your Godson,
Jeremy

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy's High School Graduation

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy's sister Elizabeth's wedding. Left to right-Thomas L. McMeekin, Elizabeth, brother Thomas C. McMeekin and Dorothy. Taken in their Glenside, PA home.

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy as a child in Massachusetts where her father was a Harvard research chemist.

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy with her mother Vera.

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy with Amanda and Jeremy on their birthday. She made each one of them a cotton pillow with their name sewn on it. They still have the pillows today.

FROM THE FAMILY

James Seaton, holding Amanda Seaton, and Dorothy holding Jeremy Seaton.

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy and her brother Thomas

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy's godchildren, Amanda Seaton (left) and Jeremy Seaton (right) wearing yellow fur jackets with buttons that match the caps, all handmade by Dorothy.

FROM THE FAMILY

Dorothy's high school graduation

Biography

Dr. Dorothy McMeekin
Dorothy “Dot” McMeekin was a modest, kind, gentle person with a quiet strength and the sort of fortitude one needed to succeed in the years before women were accepted in the sciences. Dorothy knew and understood the importance of the “local,” and the environment, long before it was widely appreciated, writing on the “local ecology” of our own Red Cedar area. She was a true citizen of her community with a life-long dedication to the human, plant and animal landscapes around us. When Dorothy McMeekin entered science more than sixty years ago, there were few women in her field. Dorothy was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1932 to Vera Sarah Crockatt and Thomas Leroy McMeekin, a noted inventor and research chemist who developed a protocol for isolating insulin. Both parents supported Dorothy’s interest in biology and the natural world. Dorothy graduated from Wilson College in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry in 1953. Unusual for a woman at that time, after receiving her Master’s degree in Botany from Wellesley College in 1955, she went on to receive her PhD in Plant Pathology, Physiology and Bacteriology from Cornell University in 1959. From 1959 to 1964, Dr. Dorothy McMeekin taught at Upsala College before moving to another teaching appointment at Bowling Green State University, 1964-1966. It was at Michigan State University where she put down roots with an academic appointment in the General Education Department of the College of Natural Science from 1966 to 1990 and then in the Botany and Plant Pathology department from 1990 until her retirement in 1997 as Professor Emerita. Our dear and beloved Dorothy passed away in East Lansing at the age of 88 on June 26, 2020. A real pioneer in so many ways, Dr. Dorothy McMeekin was ahead of her time, and remains so, with her rare combination of work in science and the arts. Her book Diego Rivera: Science and Creativity in the Detroit Murals focuses on the scientific symbolism in these visionary murals painted in the early 1930s. During her tenure at Michigan State, she wrote a number of lab manuals, including "Ecology, Diversity, and Evolution," "Science, Matter & Life," "Heredity and Change," "Approaching the Environment," and "Integrated Studies." She also published original research on fungi in journals including Mycologia, Plant Growth Regulation, Mycology, Phytopathology and The Plant Disease Reporter, as well as, a book on plant diseases titled Fire Blight, Potato Blight and Walnut Blight. Dr. McMeekin served on the board of directors for the Michigan Botanical Club and was a member of the American Phytopathological Society, the Mycological Society of America, the Society for Economic Botany, the Michigan Women's Studies Association, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi. In light of her exceptional work, Dorothy McMeekin was selected for inclusion in multiple editions of Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the Midwest and Who's Who in American Women. In recognition of outstanding contributions to her profession she was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. In the manner of Liberty Hyde Bailey, a noted Michigan naturalist and craftsperson, Dorothy McMeekin’s love for nature and the environment could be seen in the artistry she used to create works of practical art from local flora and fauna. When she retired, she helped with a course on prairie ecology; photographed rare ferns; cloned a pear tree from a graft and volunteered at the MSU library using her tailoring skills to do bookbinding and restoration. A tall, striking woman with an elegant reserve that had an unusual dignity and power, anyone who knew Dorothy will remember the warm way she smiled with her eyes and her lovely, generous laughter. She cared deeply about her community, her family, her friends and the young people who were lucky enough to pass through her classes.

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