Burns-Shirling Award for Outstanding Achievement

In honor of former departmental professors, Dr. George Burns and Dr. Elwood Shirling, the Botany / Microbiology Department annually presents the Burns-Shirling Award. This award goes to a current junior or senior major declared in the Dept. of Botany/Microbiology who has demonstrated exemplary academic success and/or service to the department. The student will receive a certificate, a monetary gift, and have their name engraved permanently on a plaque displayed in the Botany/Microbiology Awards case.

Past Recipients

2023 Maddy Russell
2023 Myles Steed
2022 Olivia Beauchamp
2022 Bryce Wittman
2021 Catie Babbs
2021 Makaila Weir
2020 Aidan Shumaker
2019 Malory Wolfe
2018 Mary Agnes Cranley
2017 Elizabeth Urbanski
2016 N'Toia Hawkins
2015 Marissa Witkovsky
2014 Jennifer M. Frey and Adrian J. Pekarcik
2013 Iftekhar A. Showpnil
2012 Grace E. Fecher
2011 Hanwen Bai
2010 Tina L. Graver and Morgan N. Waddles
2009 Elizabeth B. Mayers
2008 Alexander M. Paya and Lindsey A. Saum
2007 George S. Hamaoui, Jr.
2006 Amanda Robinson and Christina Vorobej
2005 Student Board Officers
2004 Patricia B. S. Celestino
2003 Susan L. Schifer
2002 Beth Ann Browne
2001 Priscilla A. McDowell
2000 Jessica M. Mann
1999 Jessica A. Hankinson
1998 Jarrod T. Bruce
1997 Kathleen A. Peterson
1996 Peter M. Yarchak
1995 Michelle A. Bixler
1994 Andrew C. Cooper
1993 Chanda A. Ewing
1992 Eglantina Lucio-Zavaleta
1991 Eileen L. Seeholzer and Ann M. Kneipp
1990 Eileen L. Seeholzer
1989 Susan C. Funderburg
1988 Marie Y. Hu
1987 David A. Mangus
1986 Steven C. Peiffer
1985 Kimberly A. Barker
1984 John J. Casino
1983 Charles L. Stinemetz
1982 Robert. W. Gensemer
1981 Peter A. Holthe
1980 James A. Cameron



George W. Burns

Dr. George W. Burns was professor in Botany-Microbiology from 1946 until his retirement in 1979. He came to Ohio Wesleyan after serving as a Naval Meteorologist during World War II. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Burns received an AB from the University of Cincinnati. He did his graduate work in Botany at the University of Minnesota, receiving a PhD in 1941. Dr. Burns was a very popular professor in botany over the years, with many friends among the alumni. During his career he served as Acting Vice President and Dean and then went on to serve as Acting President during difficult times of transition at Ohio Wesleyan. Dr. Burns’ research took him to Alaska to study botanical indicators of glacial retreat. He worked with geologists at The Ohio State University on some of the first studies of climate change in North America. As genetics began evolving in the college curriculum, he developed courses at OWU that resulted in a textbook “The Science of Genetics” that went on to be published in 6 editions. He was a very accomplished scientist, teacher, meteorologist, ham radio operator and, most of all, a great friend to all whose lives he touched. George Burns died in April of 1994 after a long bout with cancer.

Elwood B. Shirling

Dr. Elwood B. Shirling came to OWU in 1953 and retired in 1979. He received a B.S. from Kansas City Teachers College in 1935 and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1953. He, like Dr. Burns, was one of OWU’s greatest teachers, receiving the Bishop Welch Meritorious Teaching Award. Additionally, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Carski teaching award from the American Society for Microbiology. Dr. Shirling was a active researcher and a very skilled microbiologist. He was coordinator and Director of the International Streptomyces Project (an international cooperative research program involving the collaboration of more than 40 scientists from 20 nations that categorized and cataloged bacterial species and strains that became so important in medicine as antibiotic producing microbes). He was an important consultant to drug companies who were patenting antibiotics in the 1960s and 70s. Dr. Shirling is remembered by Alumni as an excellent teacher, mentor and friend. He started many microbiologists on to bright careers, for which they remain eternally grateful. He continues to enjoy a very happy retirement in Colorado, maintaining his home near Estes Park on the Continental Divide. The Burns-Shirling Award is generated annually from an endowed account that Alumni and friends established in 1979 when these two distinguished professors retired.

Department Contact Info


Schimmel/Conrades Science Center
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, OH 43015

P 740-368-3907
F 740-368-3999

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Department Contacts

Chair: Amy Downing
Professor of Biological Sciences
Schimmel/Conrades Science Center 325
740-368-3890 | aldownin@owu.edu

Academic Assistant: Joshua Seiders
Schimmel/Conrades Science Center 201
740-368-3907 | jjseiders@owu.edu