August 10, 2005

Harold Kaplan leaving SIUC after 56 years

by Pete Rosenbery


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In 56 years at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, retired physiology professor Harold M. Kaplan contributed to the growth of the campus from a small teachers' college to a pre-eminent research institution.

Kaplan arrived in 1949 to start the University's physiology department a year after President Delyte W. Morris came to the University. In subsequent years, Kaplan's department and SIUC showed tremendous growth.

Kaplan's nearly six decades of hard work and dedication earned him the respect of colleagues, staff and former students. He still looks for opportunities to share his wisdom with others; last fall, he submitted an article to the Illinois State Academy of Sciences for possible publication.

Kaplan celebrates his 97th birthday on Sept. 4.

Almost three decades after initially retiring from SIUC in 1977, Kaplan, a visiting professor in the School of Medicine's MEDPREP program, leaves the campus next week. He is leaving to live in Oklahoma City near one of his three children. Kaplan's' wife, Bernice, is deceased.

A celebration honoring Kaplan is set for 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, in the lobby of Wheeler Hall.

"He has forgotten more physiology than I will ever know," said Kathleen A. Jones, a visiting instructor and chair of the Student Progress Committee for the MEDPREP program. "He has a great sense of collegiality, a professionalism, dedication, love of teaching and interaction with students."

It was that collegiality and interaction with students that helped forge Kaplan's career at SIUC. Another SIUC faculty member recruited Kaplan in 1949 from the University of Massachusetts at Fort Devens, where he was chair of the physiology department.

Kaplan graduated with a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth in 1930, and a master's degree and doctorate from Harvard in 1931 and 1933, respectively. Before coming to SIUC, he served on the faculties of Harvard, Middlesex, Brandeis and Massachusetts universities.

Arriving in Illinois from Cambridge, Mass., Kaplan recalls crossing the Ohio River at Shawneetown via ferry. He soon learned a housing snafu would force him and his family to live in a motel in Marion for three weeks until they were able to find a place to live in Carbondale. A department of one that first year, Kaplan taught four or five classes and brought pots and pans from home for use in the laboratory.

The highly sought-after physiologist said other universities he visited while in en route to Carbondale wanted him, but that he rejected the offers because he signed a contract. Still, Kaplan intended to stay just one year before moving. But Morris "got to know me and he liked me," the University provided more faculty and equipment, and "it turned out they wanted me to stay," he said.

Everybody "treated me right and the kids liked me," Kaplan said, explaining how his one-year decision turned into 56 years of commitment.

From a faculty and staff of one person, Kaplan subsequently served as department chair for 22 years. He headed the University's pre-medical training program, and the vivarium program three different times.

Perseverance is a "pretty common trait" for Kaplan, said Jones.

He has more than 200 publications to his credit and is the author of several books, taking his expertise in physiology and expanding that into areas including speech pathology and animal science. His 1959 book, "The Anatomy and Physiology of Speech," became "the gold standard," Jones said. It was the first book to cover comprehensively the anatomy and physiology of the vocal mechanism, Kaplan said at the time.

Another of his four books, "The Rabbit: A Model for the Principles of Mammalian Physiology and Surgery, "is another example of Kaplan expanding his boundaries. He even served a term as president of the American Association of Animal Laboratory Science; an association geared more toward veterinarians.

Kaplan also always provided good suggestions for Jones, who came to SIUC in 1990. They shared courses and worked on publications together.

"He's a very good mentor," she said.

Former students are "fiercely loyal" to Kaplan and they still have are very fond of him and hold great respect for him, Jones said. Her father-in-law, Dale Jones, a retired family practice physician from Decatur, came to visit her family for Thanksgiving when Kaplan was also present and still refers to him as "Dr. Kaplan" out of respect, she said.

"Harold always cared about his students," she said.

Celebrating faculty excellence is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information on the celebration contact Kathleen A. Jones at 618/453-1474 or Glenda D. Sullivan with the MEDPREP program at 618/453-1650.

(Caption: Years of memories -- Retired physiology professor Harold M. Kaplan has witnessed first-hand the University's growth in a tenure spanning 56 years. Now a visiting professor in the School of Medicine's MEDPREP program, Kaplan, who turns 97 next month, is leaving after nearly six decades on campus.)

Photo by Jeff Garner