The University of North Carolina Herbarium
(NCU) has catalogued approximately 120 of John Thieret's specimens.
With only about 10% of the collection catalogued, no doubt more
specimens collected by Thieret will be found.
Most specimens were collected throughout
the Southeastern United States, with Louisiana and Kentucky the
best represented. The earliest collection found dates from 1962
(Pleopeltis polypodioides ssp. michauxiana from
St. Martin Parish in Louisiana. The latest collected databased
so far is from 1994 (Euonymus atropurpurea from
Pendleton County, Kentucky).
Rabeler, Richard K. (2006) In Memoriam:
John W. Thieret, 1926-2005. The American Society of Plant
Taxonomists Newsletter 20(1): 3. [July, 2006]
Dr. John W. Thieret, Professor Emeritus
of Botany at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), passed away unexpectedly
on 7 December 2005. Many of his family, friends, former students,
and fellow botanists gathered at NKU to celebrate his life on
26 January 2006.
John was born in Chicago on 1 August 1926.
He received his B. S. (1950) and M. S. (1951) degrees from Utah
State University where he studied botany under Dr. Arthur Holmgren.
He returned from the west to his native Chicago for his Ph.D.
studies, completing a Ph.D. in 1953 under Dr. Theodor Just. As
we will see, his dissertation, entitled “Gross Morphology
of the Seeds of the Scrophulariaceae and Classification of the
Family,” reflected only a small portion of his passion for
botany. Following graduation, he joined the staff of the Field
museum as Assistant Curator of Economic Botany, where he worked
until 1961. He moved south to Lafayette, Louisiana, that year,
taking a position as Associate Professor of Biology at the University
of Southwestern Louisiana. In 1973, he joined the faculty at NKU
as Professor of Botany and the first chair of the newly formed
Biological Sciences Department. After seven years as chair, he
continued as a professor in the department until his retirement
John had a passion for several things –
botany, editing, teaching students about these subject, and NKU.
He started the herbarium at NKU in 1973 to provide a resource
for teaching and research about the plants he so dearly loved.
The herbarium now includes about 35,000 specimens and occupies
an excellent facility in the new Natural Science Center, which
now bears his name. Many of the collections are from his many
field expeditions across the U.S. and Canada; David Brandenburg
noted to me that he had traveled over 65,000 miles with John while,
and since, he was a student of John’s. John was equally
at home in forest, ponds, or railroad yards; his interest in weeds
and searching for them enriched my collaboration with John on
the southeastern Caryophyllaceae. Looking at his list of publications
you will find papers and books bout ferns, grasses, sedges, aquatic
plants, trees, wildflowers, as well as floristic fins in Newfoundland,
Northwest Territories, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The Flora of North America project benefited
from his involvement both as author and taxon editor from the
inception of the modern project in 1987. He edited the treatments
of 40 families in the series and his name appears as author or
co-author of 37 treatments in seven of the volumes, including
nine treatments in the Caryophyllaceae (two additional ones in
that family were penned by his students). He was working on several
more contributions to the series at the time of his passing; a
future volume will be dedicated to him in respect for his contributions.
While he was a prolific writer, he also
loved to edit. Besides serving in various editorial capacities
for Sida, Economic Botany, and the Transactions
of the Kentucky Academy of Science, as well as editing Ron
Jones’ Plant Life of Kentucky, John also edited
the NKU Academic Catalog well into retirement. He thought proper
usage of the English language was important, and rather than just
criticizing, he enjoyed teaching others about it.
John loved plants and teaching
others, whether students or adults, about them. He was in his
element in the classroom, the field, the herbarium, or the library.
His legacy lives on in the students and colleagues who knew and
From the Kentucky Native Plant Society
We regret to inform everyone that Dr. John
Thieret passed away at his home on December 7, 2005, while working
on an editorial project. A memorial program celebrating the life
and accomplishments of Dr. Thieret was held January 27, 2006 at
Northern Kentucky University.
Dr. Theiret has worked extensively with the KNPS [Kentucky Native
Plant Society]. Most recently, we have been blessed to have Dr.
Thieret involved with the Native Plant Studies Certification Program.
He has taught several of the courses, including a class on the
Grasses of Kentucky which was very ably taught and thoroughly
enjoyed by all who participated. He will be missed immensely by
all of us.
For those who wish to contribute, NKU has established a John W.
Thieret Research Award for students. Send checks to: John W. Thieret
Research Award, Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Kentucky
University, 204D Herrmann Science Center, Highland Heights, KY
41099. Checks can be made out to Northern Kentucky University,
with a note indicating they go to the Thieret award.
Hansel, Mark (2005) Obituary: John Thieret,
botanist, cornerstone at NKU. The Kentucky Post.
Issue of 10 December, 2005.
Dr. John Thieret was an internationally
known botanist, author and lecturer who developed the herbarium
at Northern Kentucky University into one of the finest in the
country. Dr. Thieret, 79, died Wednesday after suffering an aneurysm
at his Alexandria home.
He came to NKU as Chairman of the Biological
Sciences Department in 1973 and served in that capacity until
1980. He has been Professor Emeritus of Botany at the university
His friends and colleagues said he was
as well known for his sense of humor as his skills as an educator
and botanist. His daughter, Nancy Thieret, of Minneapolis, recalled
an incident when a student fell asleep during one of her father's
lectures. "Dad signaled the rest of the class to be quiet,
and he moved the whole class to a different room, leaving the
sleeping student to wake up with nobody there, " she said.
Friends said Dr. Thieret also loved to
go on field trips and traveled extensively to Cuba, Canada and
Mexico, as well as throughout the United States researching and
collecting plants. Varieties of several plants bear his name.
He had also communicated recently with scientists from Iran and
Soviet bloc countries on international botanical projects. "He
had an enthusiasm for plants and could get that across to people,"
said Mildred Thieret, his wife of 55 years. "He was very
popular and became a campus character."
When he arrived the school was still known
as Northern Kentucky State College and collegues say one of his
greatest joys was watching it flourish. They described him as
as a cornerstone of the university. "He say NKU as an opportunity,
and he came and stayed and grew with it," said Jim Claypool,
Proferessor Emeritus of History at the school. Dr. Thieret had
been working with Claypool on editing the Encyclopedia
of Northern Kentucky. Claypool said Dr. Thieret was as
fine an editor as he was a scientist. "He was a grammarian
and a wordsmith," said Claypool. "He said he enjoyed
the project as well as anything he had ever done."
Renowned Northern Kentucky author Ron Ellis,
also a former colleague at NKU, agreed. "What I know today,
I learned from him," said Ellis. "He was a wonderfuly
funny guy and a caring, great, educator."
Dr. Thieret's crowning achievement at NKU,
in addition to the accomplishments of his students, is probably
the herbarium. A herbarium is a collection of dried plants housed
in cabinets. Mildred Thieret said her husband placed great emphasis
on the identification of the plants in the school's collection.
"You have to be able to identify each specific type of plant
to understand it and know where to find it," she explained.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Thieret, students from acoss the
state now utilize the school's facility.
The Chicago area native who overcame polio
as a child, received degrees from Utah State University and the
University of Chicago. Dr. Thieret served as Curator a of Economic
Botany at the Field Museum in Chicago from 1954 to 1961. He also
taught at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette for several
years before coming to NKU. He has been an advisor for numerous
publications in his field, including a 25-year stint as editor
with Economic Botany. He has been a visiting
lecturer at universities throughout the United Staes.
He belonged to several professional societies,
including the Society of Economic Botany and the Kentucky Academy
for Science. He recieved the 2005 Academic Service Award from
the Kentucky Academy of Science. He also has a long list of published
works, theses and dissertations and grant studies.
Other suvivors include sons Jeffrey Thieret,
of Minneapolis, Robert Thieret of Winona, Minn., and Richard Thieret,
currently on a teaching assignment in China; and a daughter, Jennifer
Westermeyer of Highland Heights; seven grandchildren and five
Services are private at the convenience
of the family. Northern Kentucky University will schedule a public
memorial service when classes resume in January.