As the world celebrates Earth Day 2020, the Wittenberg community is remembering Professor Emeritus of Biology Louis J. Laux Jr., a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability and the namesake of a prestigious campus award. He died April 10, 2020, at the age of 90.
Born in Hempstead, New York, Laux earned his B.A. and M.A. at Hofstra College and a doctorate in zoology from the University of Michigan. He joined the Wittenberg faculty in 1959 and taught courses in ecology, ornithology, evolution, and environmental topics until his retirement in 1991.
An educator dedicated to active learning and an avid gardener and birdwatcher, Laux engaged his students in studies on local bird and reptile populations that led to scholarly presentations and publications. His teaching and research took him to England, the Galapagos Islands, and Costa Rica, where he took a group of students in the summer of 1987 to study the flora and fauna of diverse ecosystems, as well as human impacts on the environment. He also was instrumental in the establishment of Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio.
In the 1980s, Laux’s interest in an environmentally sustainable lifestyle led him to create an urban home food production system on his property in Springfield, raising vegetables, chickens, and rabbits and using solar panels as an energy source.
Laux and his wife, Ann, spent the first part of their retirement in northern Georgia, where they built a home that was energy and resource efficient. They also participated in classes at Young Harris College, and Lou taught class sessions through the college’s Institute of Continuing Learning. When they returned to Springfield to live at Mercy Health Oakwood Village, the couple spearheaded efforts to replace a mown field on the property with a prairie that, according to his family, “gave [Lou] much joy as it bloomed over the years.” With its proximity to a woodland, he was able to enjoy his favorite pastime – birdwatching.
In 2010, Wittenberg established an annual award in Laux’s name to celebrate the efforts of those who have promoted broader understanding and good practices in an effort to encourage environmental sustainability on campus and in the community. The award is given to one student and one faculty or staff member each April at the annual Honors Convocation.
Meredith Zajac, a geology major from the class of 2013, was the first student recipient of the award.