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Paul Sammelwitz (left) and Limin Kung (right) present UD's Distinguished Young Alumni Award to Phung Luu in 2017.

In Memoriam: Paul 'Dr. Samm' Sammelwitz

Photos by Jon Cox and courtesy of Elaine Eppler

Campus community remembers professor emeritus, expert on Delaware Blue Hen

Paul Sammelwitz, professor emeritus of animal and food sciences at the University of Delaware, passed away peacefully on New Year’s Day. He was 87.

After earning his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Illinois, “Dr. Samm” joined UD’s Department Animal and Poultry Industry (now Animal and Food Sciences) in 1959 to teach anatomy, physiology and genetics. Dr. Sammelwitz introduced thousands of UD students to animal science and functional anatomy.

Paul Sammelwitz and the Blue Hen
Paul Sammelwitz was an expert on the Delaware Blue Hen and shepherded the first few birds donated to UD in the early 1960s into a flourishing flock that today numbers more than 100 birds.

UD’s resident expert on the Delaware Blue Hen, Dr. Samm shepherded the first few birds donated to UD by S. Hallock du Pont in the early 1960s into a flourishing flock of more than 100 birds today. Alongside colleague Dave Frey, he co-founded Ag Day, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) signature annual event.

An innovator in teaching with technology, Dr. Sammelwitz developed the first videodisc technology at UD, initially used in his anatomy and physiology course. Designed for animal science majors, this interactive program was a laboratory supplement to teach classical animal dissection techniques. At the touch of a finger, students could visually compare the same system or organ in two different species. This groundbreaking work afforded UD students interactive video capabilities that were decades ahead of their time.

He retired from the University in 1999 after 40 years of teaching and mentoring students and faculty.

Paul Sammelwitz and his wife, Diane, at Ag Day
Paul Sammelwitz with CANR's Elaine Eppler at Ag Day, the college's signature event that he co-founded alongside colleague Dave Frey.

“On behalf of the entire University community, I extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and former students of Dr. Paul Sammelwitz,” President Dennis Assanis said. “In his four decades on our faculty, he was the exemplar of a dedicated and caring teacher, touching the lives of scores of students. As generous donors to the University, he and his late wife, Diane, carried that support beyond the classroom by funding student scholarships. He will be greatly missed.”

Provost Robin Morgan said, “Paul Sammelwitz (Dr. Samm) dedicated his career to Blue Hens. He was a superstar at teaching UD students, combining innovation in teaching technology with a caring and supportive demeanor that put students at ease and gave them confidence to reach well beyond their aspirations. For faculty, Dr. Samm set the standard for teaching excellence, and his influence on the Animal Science teaching program remains foundational even today, long after his retirement.  Beyond UD’s human “Blue Hens,” Dr. Samm maintained the actual UD Blue Hen flock, and he expertly bred the University’s chickens to have especially blue feathers.  Whenever I hear a Blue Hen crow, I think of him.”

“He was a passionate, dedicated and inspirational educator,” noted Calvin Keeler, interim dean of CANR. “Paul and his late wife, Diane, maintained their connections to CANR after his retirement as they shared in department and college celebrations.”

Remembering Dr. Samm

Paul Sammelwitz at a Town and Gown meeting
Paul Sammelwitz speaks at a 2004 Town and Gown meeting.

Some of Prof. Sammelwitz’ colleagues, friends and students shared their memories.

“Paul had an immense impact on CANR, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and, most importantly, on his students. He loved and motivated his students and they loved him. His anatomy and physiology lectures were innovative, very popular and motivated many students to pursue careers as veterinarians or animal scientists. For me personally, he was first a pivotal instructor, then a mentor and a friend.” — Bob Alphin, senior instructor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences

“Dr. Samm was a truly wonderful colleague and mentor that brought so much to the University. Whenever I met alumni from his era, ‘Is Dr. Samm still teaching?’ was always their first question. He mentored thousands and thousands of teachers, veterinarians, scientists, extension specialists, animal scientists and colleagues. Dr. Samm’s scholarships are awarded each year to the most improved student, which says so much about him.” — Lesa Griffiths, professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences

“Paul was a valued friend and colleague. Paul truly was a visionary and we valued his knowledge along with his kindness that benefited all who were lucky enough to work with him.” — Fred Hofstetter, professor, School of Education

“I consider him to be an icon of his era. He touched hundreds if not thousands of students’ lives. An incredibility caring individual, Paul was loved by our students. He is probably the faculty member most asked about from former alumni from his era.” — Limin Kung, S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal Science Dairy Nutrition, Department of Animal and Food Sciences

Paul Sammelwitz, William Krauss and William Saylor
Paul Sammelwitz (left) with his colleagues William Krauss and William Saylor at an agricultural field day in Georgetown, Delaware

“Dr. Samm was indeed an exceptional person and a true pioneer. He took the time to learn all our names freshman year, making the transition into college much easier. He introduced us to computers, always had a silly question on his exams to make us laugh.” — Marcy Murphy, UD Class of 1987

From a May 22, 1972, letter to William McDaniel, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences:

“As you already know, [Dr. Sammelwitz] is one of the finest teaching and research professors in the School of Agriculture. More important, in my opinion, he is one of the finest men that I have ever known.” — Robert Cohen, UD Class of 1972


Dr. Sammelwitz was preceded in death by his wife, Diane; son, Michael Moore; and sisters, Ruth Preusch and June Holden. He is survived by his children, Christopher Moore Sammelwitz and Ellen (Stephen) Casey; three grandchildren, Deirdre, Niall and Rebecca Casey; sister Alice Kryszczynski; many nieces and nephews; and beloved friends and colleagues.

Services and interment will be held privately.

Visit Dr. Samm’s obituary for more information on his life and esteemed career.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Newark or the Paul H. Sammelwitz Scholarship Fund at the University of Delaware. For the latter option, visit the UD’s Make A Gift website or mail checks to University of Delaware, Gifts Processing, 83 East Main St., 3rd Fl., Newark, DE 19716. Please make checks payable to “University of Delaware” and include on the memo line “in memory of Dr. Paul Sammelwitz.”

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