Biology Department

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The John Ezra Trainer Award

This award is appropriate for any student who plans to carry out biological field investigations.  For the Student Application, click here. Your faculty mentor (the person in whose lab you will be working) needs to answer a series of questions as well. Please forward the link below to your mentor and double-check to be sure that s/he has submitted the application by the deadline. For Faculty Questionnaire click here.

John Ezra Trainer, Sr. (1914 – 1999) was born and grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He enrolled in Muhlenberg College and gradated a member of the Class of 1935. He earned Master (1938) and Doctoral (1946) degrees from Cornell University. He taught biology courses at Cornell and East Tennessee universities, but most of his academic life was dedicated to informing and inspiring literally countless students at Muhlenberg College where he taught for 40 years (1939 – 1979). In 1952 unknown numbers of viewers tuned into learn about bird study from him when he presented a fifteen week lecture series on what was then the University of the Air, broadcasted on WFIL-TV, Philadelphia. He was the first Muhlenberg faculty member to earn the titles of Associate and Senior Professors. He received the Christian and Mary Lindback Foundation Award for distinguished teaching (1969), the biology display museum was named in his honor – The Trainer Science Museum (1979), and he received the Muhlenberg Alumni Achievement Award (1980) for his exemplary life-long service to his alma mater and his distinguished career as a model professor dedicated and believing in the value of teaching science within a liberal arts tradition. He was elected a fellow of the prestigious Muhlenberg College Shankweiler Society (1996). For his friendship, advice, introducing legions of students, and overall support he was honored with a ceremony that dedicated a trail bench bearing his name at the world-famous Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania; this 1998 tribute was an expression of admiration and thanks from Bruce Romig (Muhlenberg Class 1946), a former student, departmental associate, and friend. The Department of Biology Conrad W. Raker Biological Field Station and Wildlife Sanctuary in Germansville, Pennsylvania was gifted to Muhlenberg College principally from the gratitude and friendship of his admiring bird student, field trip companion, and friend Conrad W. Raker (Muhlenberg College Class 1934)

He was most proud of his teaching during which he effectively guided the acquisition of fundamental knowledge and the means to evaluate its relevance. At one time over his many years at Muhlenberg College he could accurately claim that he taught every course in the Department of Biology. Among all the students he both served and loved he is likely to be remembered by most, especially those seeking a career in the health sciences, for his teaching of anatomy and physiology. He readily admitted that anatomy and physiology was hard work for him and his students, but it was his passion and his pleasure to introduce and teach about birds. He delighted and was rewarded in his ornithology class when laboratory students were enriched by the outdoors, more students walked about looking up instead of down, and many if not most obtained a life-long interest and enrichment from pursuing, identifying, and generally studying birds and the natural world. His students affectionately called him JET, which identified his initials and also described the pace at which his ambi-dexterous ability permitted him to write anatomical terms and diagrams on a blackboard using both hands simultaneously, and the challenge of following him while driving to field trip locations.

He rewarded and enriched the Muhlenberg community by using his enthusiasm and talents in the greater Lehigh Valley community. He was a member of the Allentown Board of Health (1951 – 1977), and a board member and vice president of the Lacawac Sanctuary in the Pocono Mountains, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. He serviced as the first President of the then Lehigh Valley Bird Club, currently the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, that brought distinguished natural history celebrities to Muhlenberg lecture halls. He helped recognize the outstanding accomplishments and overall career of Maurice Broun, the first Curator (1934 – 1966) of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, by the awarding the first Doctor of Science degree to this remarkable conservationist by Muhlenberg College.

The joy he received from the study and teaching of birds makes the Trainer Award especially appropriate for students interested in field investigations.