Department of Biological Sciences Faculty Emeritus Dr. Anthony Liberta was honored at an event on November 18, 2021. Liberta and guests gathered to dedicate the Dr. Anthony Liberta Study Suite in Julian Hall. The suite is located within the Kathryn S. Bohn, M.D., and Thomas E. Nielsen, M.D., Resource Room, which the physician couple funded in 2017.  

A more recent gift in honor of Liberta, Bohn’s faculty mentor, extends their support of the resource room and study suite. The spaces provide chemistry and biology students a place to collaborate, study, and connect.

Illinois State University President Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy spoke at the event. A fellow scientist—Kinzy earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University—she commended Liberta’s work and thanked Bohn and Nielsen for their generous investment in research and collaboration on campus.

Liberta joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Illinois State Normal University in the role of assistant professor of mycology in 1961. While at Illinois State, Liberta’s research included findings that led to the discovery of numerous species and one new genus. In recognition of his work, Liberta was named Distinguished Professor in 1990.

“Dr. Liberta taught me, encouraged me, and helped to give me the life I have today. He truly embodies what a teacher should be,” said Bohn ’74, M.S. ’80. She has remained involved at her alma mater over the years and is now on the University’s Board of Trustees, serving as its secretary. She and Nielsen also support Redbird Athletics, the Ewing Cultural Center, and Mennonite College of Nursing. Their scholarship, the Bohn Nielsen Healthcare Preprofessional Scholarship, is awarded annually to a junior or senior in the preprofessional healthcare program.

Dr. R. Michael Miller, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75, also spoke at the event as another of Liberta’s students. He called Liberta “the most influential person in my life beyond my parents.”

“Dr. Liberta put his heart into his work. I put that same heart into everything I do,” said Miller, who studied mycology under Liberta. Miller retired in 2015 from his role as staff scientist within Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division.

Dr. Ann Gould ’78, M.S. ’80, recalled receiving feedback from Liberta. “My papers came back covered in red,” said Gould. “Dr. Liberta said that was a good thing, which is the same thing I tell my own students when their papers are covered in red as well.”

Gould is now associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Rutgers. She holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Kentucky. Her academic work in the Department of Plant Biology focuses on diseases of ornamental plants.  

Liberta attributes his students’ success to the broad foundation Illinois State provides. He’s also proud of the School of Biological Sciences, which grew from research Liberta and his graduate students performed in a basement on campus.

“Excellent research tends to yield excellent teaching. I always tried to be as good in the lab as in the classroom,” Liberta said. He called the celebration-turned-reunion “the highlight of my ISU career,” adding, “My students are the stars of my galaxy, my family.”

Private support advances opportunities and facilities that promote research and collaboration. Click the link to make a gift to support additional improvements and ongoing maintenance in the Kathryn S. Bohn, M.D. and Thomas E. Nielsen, M.D. Resource Room.