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William Dilger 1923-2015

Melanie Colón

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Dec. 3, 2015
William Dilger, ornithologist, died in September

William C. Dilger ‘46, M.S. ’51, Ph.D. ’55, professor of neurobiology and behavior, died at his home in Freeville, New York, on Sept. 17 at the age of 92.


Born in White Plains, New York, in 1923, he was called to active duty while a freshman at Cornell in 1943 and was a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran of World War II in the India-Burma Theater. Upon returning to Ithaca and completing his doctorate, he joined the Cornell faculty and also served as an administrator, rising to become director of research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


At Cornell, Dilger studied lovebirds – a group of small short-tailed parrots of the genus Agapornis, endemic to Africa and Madagascar – and the evolution of breeding and social behaviors, with attention on understanding which behaviors are learned versus inherited.


Among his many books, he was the author and illustrator of “Finding Out About Birds” (1963).

His interests spanned stewarding his land, Civil War history, art illustration, woodworking and gardening.


from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2015/12/william-dilger-ornithologist-died-september


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Professor William C. Dilger, 92, of Freeville NY, passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, September 17, 2015 and had a private burial at home. Born in White Plains, NY, April 20, 1923, he was the son of Harry and Alma (Ferguson) Dilger who were farmers in Hamilton NY. He is recently predeceased by his only sister Bonnie Jean Laisney of Milton, Florida. He leaves behind Mary Ann Sumner, lifetime friend and companion and her daughter Margaret (Andrew) VanKempen (Covington KY) and son Michael Vogt (predeceased); his daughters Katherine (Greg) Clark of Brooktondale NY (John Jones & Cheryl Thompson and their son Liam, and Eric Jones and his daughter Angela Riley); Susan (John) Imhoff of Carey OH (Rebecca, John (Iliyana) and his daughter Brionna, and Josh Imhoff); Elizabeth (Michael) Morano of Freeville NY (Megan and Christopher Morano); Dianne Dilger of Sebring, Florida (Benjamin (Audra) Miller); son Christopher Dilger of Freeville NY (Jahsen, Kyle and Travis Dilger); daughter Ruth (Gerald) Williams of Groton NY (Justin and Emily Dilger and her son Braedy); Professor Dilger also leaves behind a devoted friend Fred (Grace) Farah of Dryden who was his joyful storytelling partner for many years.

Professor Dilger was a veteran of World War II in the India-Burma Theater in the Army Aircorp. He taught at the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, and as an administrator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He felt deeply connected as the caretaker to his land, enjoyed Civil War history, his library, art illustration, woodworking, gardening, and tea with family and friends. Donations may be made in his name to Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology where he spent his lifetime teaching bioethics and the importance of the conservation of all natural areas.

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief... For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." Wendell Berry.

Published in Ithaca Journal on Oct. 12, 2015
- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theithacajournal/obituary.aspx?pid=176080770#sthash.ErLw6ajL.dpuf
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