The Muhlenberg Memories Project

Dr. John V. Shankweiler

Dr. John V. Shankweiler was a professor so deeply respected in his field that a mere word from him was enough to guarantee admittance to any medical school in the Philadelphia area for one of his Muhlenberg students. It is largely thanks to him that Muhlenberg established and continues to hold such a strong reputation for pre-medical education.


A member of Muhlenberg’s Class of 1921, “Doc” joined the faculty in 1921, and obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell University, finishing in 1931.  He served as chair of the biology department until 1962. Shankweiler was responsible for organizing the pre-medical club in 1931. He assembled and cataloged Muhlenberg’s ornithological collection (known originally as the John V. Shankweiler Biological Museum), and was responsible for introducing photography courses at the College. His personal enthusiasm for cameras and film, coupled with his involvement in ‘Berg athletics (he served as tennis coach for over 20 years), led him to  begin filming football games as early as 1937, for the benefit of legendary coach “Doggie” Julian. It is thanks to Dr. Shankweiler that the archives is in possession of over two hours of film footage of life at Muhlenberg during the 1940s, including sporting events, Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1942 visit, the V-12 and V-5 programs, the christening of the U.S.S. Muhlenberg Victory, informal student parties, and of course, classroom science experiments.

“Doc” retired in 1964, and in 1970, the John V. Shankweiler Biology Building was completed; at the dedication, Dr. W. Clark Wescoe ‘41 paid tribute to the “undying and unquenchable spirit of a superlative  teacher, single-minded in his purpose, successfully achieved, to do his best in a life earnestly given in service to students, to science, and to his adopted college, each enriched beyond measure by what he gave.”

John V. Shankweiler

Dr. Shankeweiler’s yearbook photograph, 1938.