In Memoriam

Edward J. DeVillez
Professor Emeritus of Zoology


Edward J. DeVillez, born in Covington, Kentucky on April 12, 1939, was the son of Dr. Elmer and Antoinette (nee Moutschka) DeVillez. Ed grew up in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky and attended school and church at Blessed Sacrament Parish and then attended High School at Covington Latin. After graduating in 1959 from Xavier University in Cincinnati with a BS degree in Biology, Ed married Mary Jo Fieger of Crescent Springs, KY. He completed an MS degree in Zoology in 1961 at the University of Miami in Florida. Ed decided to specialize in the field of Comparative Animal Physiology and to this end he joined the lab of Professor C. Ladd Prosser at the Champaign Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. At this time, Prosser was considered by many to be the foremost expert in Comparative Animal Physiology. Ed completed a PhD in 1964 at Illinois. His dissertation was entitled “Isolation and Characterization of the Proteolytic Enzymes from the Gastric Juices of the Crayfish Orconectes virilis.” After completing the doctorate, Ed spent a year as a Research Associate at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington and was funded by a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. Ed and Mary Jo subsequently settled in Oxford, Ohio after Ed accepted a position in the Department of Zoology of Miami University in 1965. He rose to the rank of full professor in 1973.


Ed’s research interests were in the characterization, localization, and control of the secretion of digestive enzymes in several invertebrates and vertebrates. He published 20 articles on these topics in a variety of professional journals and books. Ed regularly attended meetings of the American Physiological Society, Ohio Academy of Science, Sigma Xi and the American Society of Zoologists. He held leadership positions in the latter, serving as Coordinator of Midwest Region of the Division of Comparative Physiology & Biochemistry and two terms as the Secretary of the Division.


Ed’s favorite courses on the Oxford Campus were Animal Diversity, Animal Physiology and an upper level course in Comparative Animal Physiology. The former was the first course taken by Zoology majors and covers the entire spectrum of the animal kingdom. Animal Physiology is a popular course of premedical students and those intending to pursue a health care career. Ed’s lectures were lively and encouraged student participation in spite of the large enrollment in the lower level courses. He stopped frequently while lecturing and posed questions to the class and he fully expected answers from them. His glasses would slide down his nose and he would look directly into the eyes of his students. If no one responded he would cajole and tease until someone would open up and accept his invitation to respond.

Ed believed strongly in engaging students and the laboratory component of his courses provided an excellent opportunity for this. He was not willing simply to give a series of lectures and forgo any involvement in course lab work. Ed actively participated in the lab sections associated with his lecture. He was a “hands-on” person and he expected his students to be fully engaged in the lab work.

Ed developed an appreciation for marine invertebrates from his experiences at various marine biological laboratories. Many of his students had no direct knowledge of “sea creatures”, so Ed would arrange to have live examples of different forms of marine life shipped to the Department. He maintained a sea water aquarium in the animal diversity lab and incorporated work with various marine species into the lab experience.

During several summers, Ed took a group of students, many of them in Teacher Ed, to Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod to study marine life in its natural environment. These field courses were supported by the Northeast Marine Environmental Institute (NEMEI). On encouragement by NEMEI, Ed conducted three workshops for certified teachers at NEMEI’s field station in Belize on marine ecosystems, tropical flora and fauna, and Belizian culture. Ed was the first of a number of Miami University professors to offer courses in Belize to public school teachers. During his last several years at Miami, Ed spent an increasingly large part of his time and effort in working with school teachers. Some of this work was done via the Masters of Arts in Teaching Biological Science (MAT) Program offered in the College of Arts and Sciences and supported by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. One of the most popular courses offered in this program was developed and taught by Ed on “Animal Care and Use in the Classroom”. Ed took this workshop “on the road” to dozens of schools throughout SW Ohio. Teachers were instructed on how they could collect, maintain and use lower animals to provide hands on experiences for their students. Ed also was involved with faculty in the College of Education and Allied Professions to improve science education by providing inquiry based instruction for students and teachers.

Teaching was very important to Ed and he continuously sought different ways to effectively impart knowledge and academic experiences to students and teachers. Teaching strategies was a common subject pursued by Ed in his discussions with colleagues across the University. Ed cherished his memberships in the National Association of Biology Teachers, National Science Teachers Association and the National Marine Education Association, and he made several presentations at their meetings.

Ed calculated that he had taught over 6000 students during his time at Miami. Those who love teaching measure their success by the comments made by former students. One such student who now is a physician wrote “Of all of my profs at Miami, I remember Dr. Devillez the most. I don’t remember a thing he taught me out of a book... but I remember how he taught us to think about life. Every day, he would speak for 5-10 minutes before he started his lecture...those were the most important 5-10 minutes and there weren’t many late arrivals.”

Another student wrote “I worked in his lab as an undergraduate student investigating anaerobic enzymes in his favorite Nereid worms. I went to Buzzards Bay one summer when he taught a marine invertebrate course there. He allowed me to drive the van with the equipment so I could afford to go. When he found out I recommended him for teacher of the year, he sent me the Miami apple pin that he was given upon his nomination. He was a great mentor and a great person and I will always hold him in great esteem.”

A dentist wrote of his experience as a student in an advanced course: “It is this thirst for knowledge and desire to discover that Dr. DeVillez taught me that summer in 1986. It was the summer the lights went out in Oxford during the telephone company’s transformer change, and it was also the summer the true flame of education and learning ignited in my heart. Thanks.”

A female former student wrote “ I think of Dr. DeVillez commonly when I am facing challenges in life. I faced a few challenges during college including the death of my mom. Dr. DeVillez would always tell me “it builds character Thompson; it builds character.” By the end of college I told him I had so much character, I didn’t know what to do with it. During the past 20+ years since I graduated, the tough times and challenges in life have continued to build my character and for that I am incredibly thankful. He will always be with me. “

Although Ed retired on May 31, 2002 as a Professor Emeritus, Ed continued to serve Miami students by giving guest lectures in various courses and as serving as a faculty advisor as the need arose.


Ed was actively involved in the department and helped to make the Department a friendly and collegial environment for both faculty and staff. He was well liked and loved by all. Several younger faculty colleagues shared how helpful he was to them as they started their college teaching career.

“Ed was a fantastic mentor, although he may not have realized it. I would sit in on his introductory biology class my first semester at Miami and pay attention to what he talked about as well as the way he discussed the material. He was wonderful at reaching the students and they appeared to be quite engaged when he was lecturing. I tried hard to follow his example in my introductory biology lectures.”

“As a new assistant professor of science education at Miami Ed took me, this young upstart, under his wing. He was a full professor who took the time and interest to help me, a colleague in another division at Miami.....but then that was Ed. I loved his easy-going manner, light heartedness, and willingness to help the “new kid on the block”. He always had time to talk, to answer a question, to offer a smile, and to offer advice if asked. We worked on various projects together, some of which involved groups of in-service teachers. My life at Miami was richer and more fun for having interacted with Ed. I am so fortunate to have crossed paths with this man.”

“I got to know Ed back in the late 70’s when we shared a car to teach on the Middletown campus in the evening. Ed’s sense of humor was contagious—I was a young Assistant Professor at the time and Ed had such as fine way of making me so comfortable. Ed was truly a modest individual who mentored those around him by example.”


Ed was extensively involved in community activities and the welfare of others, devoting many hours to the Oxford Senior Center. He served on the Board, delivered meals on wheels, and drove the help van. He not only promoted programs serving the needs of the elderly in Oxford, but also throughout Butler County and southwestern Ohio when he served on the Advisory Board for the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio. He was recognized by both of these organizations for his many contributions in support of the elderly. Ed also volunteered at the Oxford Food Pantry and the Crisis and Referral Center. The Oxford community honored Ed in 2005 by naming him “Oxford Man of the Year.”

The Person Ed was a dedicated husband and father. He also was dedicated to his church, St. Mary ‘s Parish. In addition to his family and church, Ed loved golf and fishing and was active in both sports. He was a key organizer of the senior golf league at the Oxford Country Club and his efforts assured a successful season of play. He enjoyed hosting friends and family members at his cabin located about an hour south of Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River. Cookouts, fishing stories and many laughs were had by all who shared time with Ed on the River. Ed supported his friends quietly, just as he did the organizations he believed were good for the community and the country. He even tried his hand at acting, performing as a member of Oxact. With his passing, the city of Oxford and Butler County lost a hardworking and dedicated volunteer and all who knew Ed lost a very good friend.

Ed enjoyed life and people and was not a complainer. Ed took his cancer diagnosis in stride and he was a fighter until the end. Near the end, Ed was surrounded by family and died peacefully at his home in Oxford, Ohio on September 18, 2013, after battling liver cancer. Ed is survived by his wife Mary Jo and their children Dianne (Sunderman), Joe, Tagg, Ellie (Megerle), Ann (Lemersal), and Steve.

Respectfully submitted by Robert G. Sherman, Ronald Pfohl, David Wilson, David Osborne, and Don Barnhart.