In Memoriam: Former plant sciences chairperson Merle Teel remembered

Merle R. Teel of West Lafayette, Indiana, the first chairperson of what is now the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, died May 6. He was 94. 

Dr. Teel joined the UD faculty in 1968 as the first chairperson of the newly formed Department of Plant Sciences. He remained at UD until 1989, when he retired as a full professor.

Thompson D. Pizzolato, professor of plant and soil sciences, said, “Merle Teel was the best agronomist I knew. He understood and enthusiastically explained the taxonomy, anatomy and physiology of the cereals, turf and wild grasses. He was a kind and eager teacher and a humble and gentle man. He was also an entertaining conversationalist. With these characteristics, Merle started many undergraduates, graduate students and young professors on to successful careers.”

Born Jan. 7, 1920, Dr. Teel was the sixth of seven children. He graduated from the Nebraska School of Agriculture in Curtis, Nebraska, in 1936. Having earned a certificate to teach school, he found opportunities at the South Brush School near Maywood, and in the McPherson County Public School in Tryon, Nebraska. 

He was drafted into the service in February 1942, eventually serving as a forward observer with the 45th Infantry Division in Germany. 

After earning two degrees — in agronomic science from the University of Nebraska and a doctorate from Purdue University in 1956 — he joined the faculty of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he taught pasture management and conducted research dealing with mineral nutrition and metabolism in crop plants, until 1968 when he went to Delaware.

After retiring from UD, Dr. Teel returned to West Lafayette, Indiana, with his wife, the former Elizabeth J. Puckett. 

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; two daughters, Keri Lee and Maggie Miller; and two stepsons, Michael and Jeffrey Puckett. 

Services were held May 10. 

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware. Please send contributions to: University of Delaware, Gifts Processing, 83 East Main St., 3rd Floor, Newark, DE 19716. Make checks payable to “University of Delaware” and include on the memo line the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and Dr. Teel’s name, for whom the gift is being made.

Online condolences may be shared at www.soller-baker.com.