Dr. Billy W. Geer, Galesburg Chapel

geer-bill.JPGClara A. Abbott Professor Emereitus of Biology at Knox College, died at 9:15 a.m. Friday, February 24, 2012 in the Knox County Nursing Home. He was 76, born July 6, 1935 on the family farm in Coin, Iowa, the son of William E. and Lena G. (Griffin) Geer.
Internationally renowned for his research on the genetics of the fruit fly, Geer taught biology at Knox College from 1963 until his retirement in 2000.
Geer wrote dozens of scientific papers, including a number co-authored with Knox students and colleagues, as well as with collaborators from research facilities around the world. Geer and two of his students, Rebecca Swanson and Anthony Dunn, wrote a history of the sciences at Knox that was published in 1997.
In addition to his teaching and research at Knox, Geer held visiting appointments at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Oregon State University, Utah State University, University of Calgary in Canada, and Monash University in Australia.
From 1979 to 1984 Geer was coordinator of the Knox-Rush Medical Program and Professor of Pharmacology at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Geer emphasized the importance of research in the liberal arts science curriculum — half of the students who worked in his lab as Knox undergraduates went on to medical school, and another one-third completed graduate or professional degrees.
Among Geer’s many honors were an honorary doctorate from Knox College in 2009, a 1995 Shannon Award from the National Institutes of Health, 1995 election as a Fellow of the Illinois Academy of Science, 1991 Alumni Citation for Excellence from the University of California at Davis, 1990 Illinois Professor of the Year Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, 1986 Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award, and a 1985 Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship for study at Monash University in Australia.
A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Geer received his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis.
Bill was a member of the First United Methodist Church and the former Cosmopolitan Club. He married Judith A. Matthews on August 10, 1957 in Halls, Mo.
He is survived by his wife Judy; three children, Susan (and D.K. Komlosi) Geer of La Grande, Ore., Kurt (and Carlene Thomas) Geer of Indian Harbor Beach, Fla., and Kelly Geer of Galesburg; his twin sister, Betty Breeden of Elko, Nev.; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and three sisters.
Cremation will be accorded. Memorial service will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 31, 2012 in the First United Methodist Church. Mary Runge will officiate. A time for fellowship will be offered following the service at the church. Private burial will be in Hope Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, the Billy Geer Research Fund at Knox College, or Guardian Angels Humane Society. Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Service is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be made at www.h-p-w.com.

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10 Guestbook Entries to “Dr. Billy W. Geer, Galesburg Chapel”

  1. To the family of Dr. Billy Geer,

    It was with sadness that I read of the death of Dr. Geer and yet it is good to know he is no longer suffering in a condition that must have been so hard for him to deal with and for each you as his loved ones. Dr. Geer was a wonderful person to work for while he was still working at Knox and I was Faculty Secretary in the Science and Math Center. I will always remember him with fondness and gratitude for his kindnesses and understanding, especially when I first began working at Knox and had never seen an Apple computer before and for the kind man he was all of the years I did work for him. My heart goes out to each of you. May God bless you.

  2. Dear Family of Dr. Geer,

    I am so sorry to hear about Dr. Geer’s passing. He was a wonderful mentor to me while I was at Knox and I learned so much from him and from working in his lab. I remember that during my senior year (1988), Dr. Geer accompanied about 6 of us to the undergraduate research meetings in Asheville, NC. We all gave presentations there. Before the meeting, he patiently listened to us practice our presentations again and again and again. That was my first scientific meeting, and I will never forget it. I know that I am a scientist today because of my experience working in Dr. Geer’s lab. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Karen Kandl

  3. Judy,my prayers and thoughts go out to you at this sad time!
    Take comfort in knowing he is in Gods hands and no longer suffering! If there is anything I can do for you just give me a call!

  4. Judy,
    I was so sorry to read about your husband’s death. It is a tough time for you, I know. Take each day at a time. Take comfort in the good memories.

  5. To Judy and family,

    I loved him dearly. What an awesome man who did so much for so many people and he did it with much grace and love. He definitely left a mark while he was here and the world is a better place because of him.
    I will always remember him, especially, but not limited to the 6th of July, as we shared the same birthday.

    You are in my prayers.


  6. Dear Judy,

    I only briefly saw you and your husband at the Methodist Church, but could tell how dearly he was loved and cared for. I’m sorry for your loss and pray for God’s comfort in all of the days to come. What an amazing impact he had on so many lives and obviously had great passion for his work.

    With Deep Sympathy,
    aimee gamble

  7. Judy and Family

    I am so sorry to hear about Billys passing. I always enjoyed visiting with you when you were here in Shenandoah at Mary Ellens. The kids always enjoyed Billy. He will be dearly missed by many people. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.
    Thinking of you-
    Charlene Wilcox

  8. Dear Mrs. Geer,
    I worked with Dr. Geer in the fly lab for four years and I can’t begin to say what this wonderful man has meant to me. He was a great researcher, but first and foremost he was a great teacher. He taught me a lot of science, but he taught me more about how to live my life, by his example. His achievements would have justified in him a big ego, yet he had no ego. He was a kind and gentle soul and I do not exaggerate to say that he was one of the finest human beings I have ever know. Thank you for sharing him with us. I hope it is some small consolation to you to know that people all over the world loved this man and learned from him. He truly changed the world.
    Dustin Joy

  9. I am so very sorry for your loss. Take comfort in knowing, “God himself … will wipe out every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away”. Revela-tions 21:3, 4 May the comfort from the scriptures bring you peace, and the precious memory of your love one brings you joy.

  10. I was a Sociology major, but in my senior year, I decided to take Dr. Geer’s Cytology class. I had heard that he was an amazing teacher and didn’t want to graduate from Knox without a chance to learn from him.

    It was one of the best decisions I ever made! I can’t think of many people who would be able to get me up and out of bed for an 8 am class, but I looked forward to going to Dr. Geer’s class even that early in the a.m. He was without a doubt one of the finest professors at Knox and an amazing human being.

    My sincere condolences to his family. May he rest in peace as his memory and good work lives on in his students and friends.

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