Obituary in the Newsletter of the Ohio Branch
of the American Society for Microbiology - Fall 1968
Orton Kirkwood Stark, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology and first chairman of the Department of Microbiology at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, died at his home on September 5, 1968. He is survived by his wife Mary; two children: Mrs. Virginia Ruth Sherrell of Leonia, New Jersey and Edward William of Garden City, New York and their children.
Orton was born in Cromwell, Indiana, on 21 September 1898. He worked and attended Tri-State College on an intermittent basis from 1917-1921 after which he transferred to DePauw University, receiving the A.B. degree in Botany in 1922. After three years as a graduate assistant and one year as a Graduate Fellow, Orton earned his Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Illinois. Following a year at Louisiana State Normal as Associate Professor of Biology and two years as an assistant professor at Wyoming, he came to Miami in 1929 with the charge to strengthen the bacteriological offerings in Botany. He became an associate professor in 1938 and full professor in 1944 after a year as acting head of the Botany Department. At this time, Dr. Stark was made head of the new Bacteriology section, which "for bookkeeping purposes" was in the Department of Chemistry. Here, he persevered for twelve years making slow but steady progress toward independent status which came in 1956 when the Department of Bacteriology was established under his chairmanship. Orton resigned the chair in 1962 but remained on the faculty until 1965 when he became an Emeritus Professor.
Dr. Stark was a charter fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology; a fellow of AAAS since 1926; a member of the Royal Society for Health (England); New York Academy of Science; Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine; Society of American Microbiology and president of its Ohio Branch in 1948. He was also a member of the Sigma Xi and The Phi Sigma Society. His last published research was on the mechanism of immunological paralysis of pneumococcal polysaccharides which appeared in Mechanisms of Hypersensitivity, Little, Brown and Co., 1959, as the proceedings of the International Symposium on Hypersensitivity held at the Ford Hospital, Detroit, in 1958.
Small of stature, Orton was a giant among men, a tower of strength to colleagues, an understanding and patient tutor for young colleagues and for untold hundreds of students. He was a Latin scholar, a professor in search of excellence, a man of warmth and understanding, a human who sought always to serve others, and a fading shadow anytime attention focused his way. He was a true microbiological pioneer at this old school and we shall miss him.
Dr. Stark developed and taught courses in general bacteriology, bacterial physiology, pathogenic bacteriology and immunology and serology. He directed the first M.A. thesis on Bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties of merphenyl nitrate in 1935.