In Memoriam: Shankel, Delbert M.

In Memoriam: Shankel, Delbert M.


Delbert (Del) M. Shankel, 90, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Kansas, died on July 12, 2018. Shankel was a long-time member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and served on the ASM Lab Practices for Microbiology Committee and the ASM Carski Foundation Award Committee. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. His academic career at the University of Kansas spanned 50+ years.

Del was born August 4, 1927 in Plainview, NE. He received his B.A. in English with minors in Chemistry and Zoology from Walla Walla College in Washington State in 1950, and earned his Ph.D. in Bacteriology with a minor in Biochemistry in 1959 from the University of Texas, Austin. Del served in the U.S. Army from 1951-54 and taught Bacteriology at the Army Laboratory Technicians School in Houston, Texas. In 1959, he became Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Kansas (KU), and then rose quickly through the academic ranks, becoming Acting Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and later Assistant Dean and then Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, while at the same time earning promotion to full Professor. In 1980-81, he served as acting Chancellor and in 1994-95 as Chancellor. He held other positions as well including head of the journalism school, athletic director, interim president and CEO of the KU Alumni Association, and the University's first executive vice chancellor.

In 2010, the University named the Shankel Structural Biology Center on West Campus in his honor.

Over the course of his career at KU, he authored more than 50 major papers in professional journals and mentored countless numbers of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as other administrators, faculty and staff.  As reported in the Kansas City Star (July 13, 2018):  

“Throughout his academic and administrative career, Chancellor Shankel remained devoted to his scientific discipline of microbiology. He maintained an active laboratory program and advised countless master’s and doctoral students,” KU Chancellor Doug Girod said in a statement Thursday. “He was the consummate university professor, fostering interdisciplinary communication whenever he could. He once told a newspaper reporter, ‘I didn’t have a leadership career plan. I thought if I could become a good teacher, professor and researcher, I’d be happy.’”