Sudden death of biology Professor Bruce Serlin causes grief for DePauw community

Photo from DePauw’s statement released at the time of Serlin’s death.
Photo from DePauw’s statement released at the time of Serlin’s death.
Photo from DePauw’s statement released at the time of Serlin’s death.
Photo from DePauw’s statement released at the time of Serlin’s death.

    Bruce Serlin, a well respected, charismatic DePauw University biology professor who held high expectations for his students died suddenly from cardiac arrest on June 11. He was 64 years old.

    Professor Serlin began working at DePauw in 1985 as a professor of biology and became associate professor in 1992, according to a statement released by DePauw University at the time of Serlin’s death. Serlin also dedicated his time to the Honor Scholar Program as program director from 1997-2000 and 2001-2004.

    Serlin was a biology professor and was known by his students as a kind and goofy professor whose best advice was to never give up. “I think all of us students would always be interested to see what he was wearing because he was a super successful guy but would show up in clothes that looked like he got them from Goodwill,” junior Leia Hudgins said, “and his socks didn’t match, and his shirt could be super brightly colored with shorts that don’t match, but he was just super goofy and always messing around in class.”

    Serlin was beloved by his students, but “he wasn’t afraid to let students fail as a learning experience,” Jim Benedix, professor of biology and chair of the biology department, said, “I think that was part of his helping students become really good critical thinkers and help them to work with complex situations.”

    Hudgins, a biochemistry major, struggled during her time in Biology 101 with Serlin. Through her struggle Serlin constantly encouraged her. “He just always told me don’t give up,” Hudgins said, “you’ll do better on the next one, you’ll do better on the next one, and was just always very encouraging towards me.”

    Serlin had a wide variety of interests including cell biology, nutrition, consciousness and botany. He also made an impact on DePauw through his work with the Honor Scholar program.

    “He became active in the Honor Scholar program,” Benedix said. “He became interested in consciousness, sort of the concept of consciousness and our understanding of consciousness, and started recently becoming interested in taking his plant knowledge and applying it to nutrition and the interaction between humans and the plants that supply us with food.”

    The Dr. Irving Serlin Distinguished Honor Scholar Award is an award created by Serlin, and is given to the most exemplary Honor Scholar student. “When his dad passed away, some money came to DePauw and created that award… that’s something he did to honor his dad,” Benedix said.

    Education was also something that Serlin was extremely passionate about. “He, like all of us, had strong opinions about how we should best go about educating the students and that was really important to him, that we do a good job in developing our students,” Benedix said.

    According to DePauw’s statement, Serlin served on DePauw’s faculty for over 30 years and made an impact on DePauw. President Mark McCoy said, “Bruce touched countless students with his impactful pedagogy, and is well respected and a beloved member of the DePauw community.”