Honoring Distinguished Alumni: The J.J. Turner Society

Membership in the J.J. Turner Society is an honor conferred on Hiram College life science majors and minors during the spring term of their senior year.

The origins of the Turner Society date back to the early 1980s. Largely through the efforts of Professor William J. Laughner (Department of Biology, 1976-1994), together with Biology Department alumni and faculty, the Turner Society was created to recognize seniors graduating in biology. Each year the society honors an alumnus who had made a significant contribution to the field of biology. The founders viewed the annual meeting of the Society as an opportunity for graduating seniors to learn of the achievements of former students, and as a venue that provides an added connection of current students with their fellow alumni.

Membership in the Society is for senior majors and minors graduating in the life sciences: biology, biochemistry and neuroscience, as well as faculty in these departments and programs.

Membership today is estimated at 2,000.

History of the Turner Society:

The Society was named for the distinguished Hiram faculty member, Professor James Jesse Turner. Turner graduated from Hiram College in 1902 and was appointed to the faculty of the College in 1906. He taught and mentored students until his death, at age 69, in 1950. Turner's accomplishments include a return to graduate school in the 1920s, and the receipt of his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1923. He was widely recognized as a teacher of biology and natural history, although he also taught courses in chemistry, physics, mathematics, astronomy, geology and geography at Hiram. Tributes at the time of his death praised him as a superb and caring teacher, and as a person who led to recognition of Hiram as an outstanding college in preparation of students in the fields of biology and pre-medicine. He also led many field trips to other parts of the U.S. and Canada. The east wing of the Colton-Turner building is named in his honor.

Initially the Department of Biology sponsored a Research Symposium, the first of which was held in 1984, and which included presentations by graduating seniors and invited alumni. The first formal meeting of the Turner Society was held during the 1986-87 academic year; it featured a lecture by Carl Pochedly, M.D. Dr. Pochedly was a 1952 graduate of Hiram College and a respected physician recognized for his work on childhood leukemia.

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