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Fred A. Ryser

Chris Merkord

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FRED A. RYSER, a member of the AOU since 1951, AFO since 1989, COS since 1954, and WOS since 1956, passed away 25 Nov 2011.


A beloved husband, father, grandfather, and teacher, Fred Ryser passed away on November 15. He was 91. Born on February 29, 1920, in Lansing, Michigan, to Fred A. Ryser, Sr., and Florence Embery Ryser, he grtw up in Madison where he fell in love with nature, especially with observing birds. He built his first laboratory in his garage at the age of 8 and bought his first "Peterson's Field Guide" when he was 12. His passion for ornithology and birding remained with him professionally and personally throughout his life. Only a few months before his final illness he was in the field, observing and counting the birds at Swan Lake.


Because of his ROTC experience in high school, Fred joined the National Guard in 1938, becoming a Corporal in 1940 and Sergeant in 1941. He joined the United States Army and was in boot camp when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Subsequently, he was deployed to New Guinea where he served, often under harrowing circumstances, in the Papuan Campaign. He served with Company K, 128th Regiment, 32nd Infantry, the "Red Arrow Division," the same as his father had in WWI. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal "for meritorious achievement in ground combat against the armed enemy during World War II in the Asiatic Pacific Theater of Operations." He was extremely proud of his service to his country and was wearing his WWII Veteran cap on Veterans' Day four days prior to his death.


After discharge, Fred returned to Wisconsin and earned his BS, MS, and PhD at the University of Wisconsin. He came to Reno to join the biology department at the University of Nevada in 1950. He also helped start the biology department at what was to become the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He taught a wide range of subject matter, including anatomy, physiology, comparative anatomy, ornithology, desert and mountain wildlife, and taxidermy. He also curated the biology museum at the university. He was known as a demanding but highly professional and sympathetic educator and there are many who remember his riveting presentations (as well as his vivid impression of the blue-footed booby). Fred was the Teacher of the Year at UNR in 1980 and awarded Professional: Emeritus status upon retirement. He was also inducted into the UNR Honor Court.


Fred was a lover of every form of writing and an ardent collector of books. He authored "Birds of the Great Basin," part of the Max C. Fleischman series of area natural history. At his death, he was working on "The Natural History of the Tahoe Basin," expected to be finished by collaborator and friend Hal Kleiforth.


Known for his generosity, Fred was a member of the Center for Spiritual Living; the Nevada State Retired Educators Association, Washoe Unit; the Friends of the University Library; the Audubon Society; the Westerners Corral; and innumerable scientific organizations. He was also an ardent fan of the Green Bay Packers, the University of Wisconsin Badgers, and the Nevada Wolf Pack.

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