Graceland mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Nicholas L Hartwig, who passed away on October 16, 2022.
Hartwig grew up in Colorado and Nebraska and loved hunting and fishing with his dad. He helped take care of the family’s numerous cats and dogs, and the chickens and rabbits they raised as a source of income. As a junior in high school, Hartwig moved with his family to Anchorage, Alaska where he met Merilou Gilmore, whose family had moved to Anchorage a few months earlier. They quickly became a couple, got engaged the summer after graduation, and the two of them went to Iowa to attend Graceland College (now University). They enjoyed their time there and made many lifelong friends.
They were married in 1958 at the Anchorage Congregation and moved to Seattle, Washington, so Nick could complete his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. During this time the couple’s two children were born, Michael Hartwig and Jeanette (Hartwig-Botts) Calipetro. Hartwig first joined Graceland’s faculty in the fall of 1965 on a one-year temporary assignment, filling in for a professor on sabbatical. He returned on a permanent basis in the fall of 1967 and served for many years in the biology department, teaching courses such as botany, zoology, paleontology, and horticulture.
Hartwig also taught Genetics to the Pre-Med and Pre-Nursing students, and was proud that he was teaching future healthcare workers; two of his former students became his physicians. He drove weekly from Lamoni to the Independence, Missouri campus for 20 years to teach genetics to nursing students. For many years, he taught popular winter term courses in marine biology in Grand Cayman.
Hartwig was passionate about plants, introduced courses in ecology, and drew up the plans for the science building’s animal quarters and greenhouse, which he received a grant to build. In that greenhouse, he grew plants for classes and crossbred many orchids. Over the years he created many beautiful orchid hybrids, which Merilou would make into corsages for special occasions. He also maintained plants in all buildings on campus.
“I knew Nick as a student, as a colleague, and as a neighbor. He was a wealth of knowledge – if you needed to know a kind of plant, tree, or frog, he would know it. He contributed many plants and animals to the science department for study over the years and, I am grateful to have had him as a professor, colleague, and friend.” – Daniel Pratt, PhD ’81, Professor of Chemistry
Professor Hartwig was proud to be a marshall for graduation for 33 years, leading thousands of graduates to their future. The Hartwigs became “town parents” to dozens of Graceland students over the years. When Graceland started a student exchange program with Eastern European countries, the couple took them in, inviting their “adopted” children to their house and sharing many meals, Hartwig tacos, banana splits, pumpkin carving, holiday cakes and treats, and lots of stories and laughter.
The Hartwigs traveled all over the world, going to around 70 countries. They especially enjoyed going to Bulgaria and Hungary, where numerous exchange students lived. They loved seeing “their kids” and meeting their families.
“The University is better because of Professor Hartwig and his influence,” said Graceland President Patricia H. Draves, PhD. “As a scientist, I have an immense amount of respect for the contributions he made to the department, but even moreso, I am grateful for the many students Professor Hartwig influenced over the years to go and make the world a better place. He will be missed.”