Deaths: Mary Diaz, Abigail Salyers

Mary Diaz

Mary Diaz

Mary Diaz, library

A memorial service will be held Dec. 10 on campus for Mary Diaz, 46, senior library specialist in the Daley Library special collections department, who died Nov. 12.

She worked in the library for 20 years, beginning in circulation, then moving to the serials section at the Library of the Health Sciences before joining special collections in 1999.

She was involved in processing the library’s Richard J. Daley Collection — sorting, identifying and organizing thousands of papers, photographs and artifacts from Chicago’s most famous mayor and patriarch.

A fan of author Jane Austen, Diaz earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Findlay College and a master’s in English from Illinois State University.

“Mary served the department faithfully and fastidiously,” said Valerie Harris, assistant professor and associate special collections librarian.

“She trained many generations of students in the particulars of caring for and handling rare and unique collections and was the person who reminded her fellow staff of all the details of past projects.

“Her grace, expertise, warm nature and institutional memory are irreplaceable assets which we will miss for many years to come.”

She is survived by her husband, Carlos, and daughter, Isabella.

The Dec. 10 memorial service will begin at 3 p.m. in 1-470 Daley Library.


Abigail Salyers, microbiology

Abigail Salyers, 70, professor emerita of microbiology in the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, died Nov. 6.


Abigail Salyers

Salyers, who retired in 2012, was the G. William Arends professor in molecular and cellular biology.

She revolutionized how people think about the bacteria that live in the human intestinal tract, helped design antibiotic drugs and added to discussions about bioterrorism, transgenic plant safety and antibiotic resistance in medicine and agriculture.

Salyers “was a kind and willing mentor to those of us who were neophytes in microbiology,” said Nigel Goldenfeld, Swanlund professor of physics and leader of the biocomplexity research theme in the Institute for Genomic Biology.

“She was one of the earliest to emphasize the role of horizontal gene transfer in evolutionary ecology, and also was one of the first to emphasize the view that the body is a microbial ecosystem.”

Salyers received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1963 and a doctorate in physics in 1969 from George Washington University. She was a faculty member at St. Mary’s College and Virginia Polytechnic Institute before joining the U of I in 1978.

She became the campus’ first female tenured professor in microbiology in 1983 and was named a full professor in 1988.

She published more than 150 scientific papers and two textbooks.

She was a University Scholar, Faculty Member of the Year in the College of Medicine and a member of the Center for Advanced Study. She received an Award for Excellence in Teaching from UIC.

As president of the American Society for Microbiology, she helped educate postal workers about anthrax during the 2001 attacks, when the dangerous bacteria were mailed to news and political offices.

Salyers was president of the board for El Centro, reviewed grants for the National Institutes for Health and provided expert testimony on transgenic plants and antibiotic use in agriculture for regulatory agencies in Europe and the U.S.

“Abigail was an eminent scientist and a wonderful colleague, and we’ll miss her,” said Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology.

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