Veteran EMU Biology Professor Dies

Dr. Daniel B. Suter 1920-2006
Dr. Daniel B. Suter 1920-2006

Daniel B. Suter, professor emeritus of biology and developer of the pre-medical program at Eastern Mennonite University, died Dec. 24, 2006, at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community where he was a resident. He was 86.

Dr. Suter joined the science department at EMU in 1948 and eventually became head of the biology department and pre-med advisor. He retired in 1985.

The Science Center, completed in 1967, was named after Suter “in recognition of his leadership in the development of the school’s science/pre-medical program and his influence among students during his teaching years.”

Doctor of the Year

During his tenure, EMU students had an acceptance rate of more than 85 percent into medical, dental and veterinary schools, well above the national average of 40-50 percent. He was named “Doctor of the Year” in 1985 by the Mennonite Medical Association and the Mennonite Nurses’ Association.

The board of trustees of EMU established the Dr. Daniel B. Suter Endowed Biology Chair on Sept. 19, 1986 in honor of his distinguished teaching career and “contributions to academic excellence and the highest standards of personal and spiritual maturity in the biology/pre-med program.”

Dr. Roman J. Miller, who joined the EMU faculty in 1985, was named first appointee to the Suter Chair.

“When I arrived at EMU as an associate professor of biology, Dr. Suter was gracious and helpful as I began teaching some courses that he had taught and assumed premedical advising responsibilities in a program that he had largely developed,” Dr. Miller said. “Through his excellence in teaching and carefulness in advising students, Dr. Suter created a legacy of influential premedical training.”

Dr. Daniel B. Suter and wife Grace
Dr. Daniel B. Suter and wife Grace at Daniel’s 80th birthday party, April 2000, in the Suter Science Center.

Servant of the Church

Suter was ordained a minister in Virginia Mennonite Conference in 1951 and served as pastor of Gospel Hill Mennonite Church and later Weavers Mennonite Church in Rockingham County. He also served the broader church as a visiting minister and teacher. He spoke in many settings on the harmful effects of alcohol use and abuse on the body and on “the biology of aging.”

He served as secretary of Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions and as a board member of both Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc. (now Mennonite Media) and VMRC.

Suter was a skilled woodworker and strong advocate of church music, promoting singing from the “Harmonia Sacra,” a songbook edited and first published by Joseph Funk of Singers Glen, Va., in 1832.

Suter was a graduate of Eastern Mennonite High School, Eastern Mennonite College, Bridgewater College, Vanderbilt University and the Medical College of Virginia, where he received a Ph.D. in neuroanatomy in 1963.

Divine Placement

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber noted that Suter was offered a faculty position at UVa. at three times the salary that EMU had paid him. Suter felt compelled to return to EMU because “I believed that’s where the Lord wanted me to be.”

Asked if he had any regrets, his response was “No, not really, although it was difficult at times. I’m grateful when I think about the more than 300 physicians, dentists, and other health care workers who are serving all over the world that I helped to train.”

He married the former Grace Fisher on June 23, 1941, who preceded him in death on Dec. 8, 2003. He is survived by two daughters, two sons, one sister, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service was held Dec. 29, 2006 at Strite Auditorium of VMRC, with internment at Weavers Mennonite Church cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Daniel B. Suter Endowed Chair at EMU, 1200 Park Rd., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or online at or by phoning (800) 368-3383.