Remembering Thomas Koppenheffer

On Feb. 6, professor emeritus of biology, Thomas L. Koppenheffer, passed away at the age of 73.

Koppenheffer came to Trinity in 1979. From 1987 to 2001 he served as chair of the biology department. He was instrumental in starting one of Trinity’s strongest interdisciplinary majors and was a dedicated teacher in the field of immunobiology.

Trinity’s current biology department chair, David Ribble, studied at the university during Koppenheffer’s time as a professor before joining him as a member of the Trinity faculty.

“Tom was hired when I was a student and he was chair when I was hired in 1992,”  Ribble said. “He served as chair for 16 years and helped to boost undergraduate research in biology and biochemistry at Trinity.”

Koppenheffer left a legacy of hard work and dedication to progress at Trinity. He helped start the interdisciplinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major and worked hard to teach students in a developing field.

“He was an incredibly gifted teacher in one of the most difficult and advancing fields of modern biology,” Ribble said. “Tom spent hours keeping up with all the latest developments.”

Not only did he impact the university and those he worked with, he taught students valuable lessons they could apply both in and outside of the classroom. His impact extended far beyond the realm of his science classes and students remember him fondly.

“He was a brilliant lecturer and teacher. I worked with him doing research for three and a half years,” said Blaine Russell, class of “˜84. “He had very high standards but he was also very funny and loved to pull pranks. He taught me to always do my best. He was like a father to me and was a true mentor in every sense of the word.”

Not only did Koppenheffer strive to help students improve, he also cared about the university and was committed to helping Trinity and Trinity students be the best they could be.

“Trinity was changing then. There was a program where science majors could take only science classes if they wanted to. He told me not to do that. He advised me to broaden myself and expand my horizons. That is what a liberal arts education is all about,” Russell said.

“Tom was a major believer in the power of education in the classic liberal arts tradition,” Ribble said. “He helped me understand that and how to constantly push this university to improve.”

In addition to teaching, Koppenheffer served as a reviewer for academic journals, textbooks and grant proposals. He was also a member of several prestigious panels of scientists. Koppenheffer is survived by his wife, two sons and five grandchildren.