Dr. Dorothy Chappell retires this spring after 43 years of service. She began her career at Wheaton College in 1977, and has served as professor of botany, two terms as Faculty Vice-Chair, and Chair of the Biology Department.
In 1994, she transitioned to Gordon College. “Both Wheaton and Gordon have been blessed by Dot Chappell’s administrative acumen, her wise and strategic thinking, and her faithful commitment to Christ,” says D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College. “She is a pioneering scientist whose witness and leadership has paved the way for tens of thousands of women and men who have followed her example of being committed to Christ-honoring excellence in the sciences.”
Chappell continued her commitment to Wheaton College by serving on the Board of Trustees and then returned to Wheaton as Dean of Natural and Social Sciences and Professor of Biology, roles in which she diligently led the Natural and Social Sciences Division.
Besides her work as an academic administrator, one of her greatest legacies at Wheaton is the Meyer Science Center. “Dr. Chappell was involved in almost every aspect of the building’s design,” says President Philip Ryken ’88, “including its spectacular murals.” Ryken continues, “The success of Wheaton students and faculty in collaborative scientific research is due in no small part to her advocacy and success in gathering equipment, securing grants, and helping to construct one of the best science facilities at any liberal arts college in the world.”
While considering her legacy at Wheaton—beyond hiring decisions, teaching, leading renovation and construction projects, and publishing notable research—Chappell reflects, “All the other things aside, it’s the lives of the students and peers that I sought to shape. How have I influenced people for Christ? For me, that’s the most important thing in my years of service.”
Her colleagues agree. Dr. Bryan McGraw, dean of social sciences, says that “Dot has always been deeply committed to the success of the College as a whole and worked extraordinarily hard to advance its mission. What I appreciated about her especially was her encouragement for junior faculty.” Dr. Kirk Farney M. A. ’98, vice president for Advancement, Vocation, and Alumni Engagement, remembers when he first assumed his duties at the College, “Dot was the first person outside of my division to come to my office for a visit. She assured me of her prayers and support, and explained that she understood how vital advancement work was to the mission of Wheaton. Since then, she has supported our work both personally and professionally. More importantly, her engagement has gone beyond just those projects that benefited her department.”
Throughout her career, Chappell has published research ranging from the cell biology of green algae to topics related to science and Christian scholarship. She has received awards for research and teaching, including the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award at Wheaton College, Outstanding Educator of the Chicago Region, and a Fulbright Scholar’s Research Award to research in Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand.
Wheaton College is deeply grateful for the service and dedication Chappell has demonstrated in serving Christ at the College for over four decades.