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COS mourns loss of biology instructor

By Nancy Shepard

Neil Schanker

A public memorial service will be held by College of the Siskiyous for biology instructor Neil Schanker this Saturday, August 19th, in the Life Science Building at 4:30 p.m.

Schanker, who taught at COS since 1994, died in a fall while hiking in Oregon on August 1st.

Born in Washington DC, Schanker grew up in Kansas and earned his BS and MS degrees in Biology Education from Kansas State University.

He taught science to younger children in a variety of settings before beginning his college teaching career at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, IL. He joined the COS faculty in 1994.

At COS, Schanker taught popular classes in biology, microbiology, ecology, and zoology. As a teacher, he was well-organized and enthusiastic, had an openness and easy rapport with students, and brought a positive attitude and a willingness to help.

COS staff member and former student Andy Duclos remembers the infectious enthusiasm Neil brought to his subject matter and his genuine delight at being in the classroom.

Ken Beatty, who continues to teach part time after retiring from the full-time position Schanker filled, said Neil often accompanied him on class field trips “and added a lot to every trip he came on.”

Neil was an avid outdoorsman, and spent his weekends and summers hiking, gold panning, bird watching, and collecting specimens throughout the region.

He created an extensive photographic collection of plants, wildlife, historic sites, and landscapes.

His wide-ranging interest in the sciences led him to document the places he visited and the natural life he saw. He was always happy to share this material and his experiences with others.

“Neil was always contributing new information and wonderful photographs to the Mount Shasta collection,” said COS library director Dennis Freeman. “His enthusiasm was contagious and his friendship will be greatly missed,” he added.

Neil Schanker is survived by his parents, Lewis and Joyce Schanker of Grants Pass, OR, and by his sister, Lynn Dreese and her family, of Plymouth, Minnesota.

Family, friends, and colleagues plan to establish an endowment in his name to provide scholarships for transferring biology majors.

Information will be posted as it becomes available on the COS biology web page:

biology/. Or you can contact Dave Clarke at 530-938-5250.

Neil's friends will also gather for a potluck brunch in his memory on Saturday, August 26th at 9:30 a.m. at Carrick Park in Weed.

For more information about the brunch, contact Gaylin Rezek or Jeff Anderson at 938-1754, or check the Siskiyou Wanderers' website at

Contact the college at 530-938-5555 for more information.

-- Nancy Shepard is a telecommunications specialist in the Distance Learning Lab at College of the Siskiyous. She and her husband, geology instructor Bill Hirt, are good friends of Neil Schanker and are acting as contacts between the college and Schanker's family.

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