Friday, November 20, 2020

Nancy Watts Van Schaik

Fundraiser:  The Historical Society will once again be offering fresh evergreen swags for home decorating needs for the holidays. Made locally by Society members, these fresh boughs of local pine and cedar are accented with bunches of fresh holly berries.  A large all-weather red velvet bow adds the finishing touch. The cost is $15.00 each. Please call Donna 908-208-2372 of Nancy  618-240-2021 and place your order. WE also have grave blankets for sale as well.  See previous blog for pictures.   

While the researchers were looking for women to add to our growing list of the Ladies of Lawrence, they ran across the name, Nancy Watts Van Schaik

Mrs. Van Schaik had been born in Miami, Florida, February 7, 1930, but Nancy Watts (Worner)  had local Lawrence County roots. She was the granddaughter of  Thomas C. and Carrie B. Watts, and the daughter of Amiel H. and Madeline W. Worner.  Her parents moved to Lawrenceville,  and she attended the local schools, graduating from Lawrenceville High School as a high honor student. 

The Lawrence County News, November 2, 1950, announced that Nancy Worner, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Worner of Lawrenceville, a senior at Eastern Illinois State College, was one of 22 juniors and seniors nominated to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities by the Student Council and faculty.  Nancy’s activities at Eastern State include Delta Sigma Epsilon, Kappa Mu Epsilon, junior aid, class secretary, and Women’s League.  

After graduating from Eastern in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, she earned her Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1953, while she was working on her doctorate degree as well. 

On September 2, 1954, the Lawrence County News published a long write-up of her wedding at her parents' home in Lawrenceville to Dr. Van Schaik, who held a Bachelor of Science degree from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and his Masters and Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.  A short time after the wedding, the young couple sailed aboard the Queen Mary for England, and from there, they toured Europe before making their home at Pretoria, South Africa, where Dr. Van Schaik was the professor of genetics at the University of Pretoria. 

Sadly, Nancy's husband died just five years later on October 21, 1959, leaving her with two small sons,  4 yrs old and 21 months old.   The newspaper, Die Vanderland, Johannesburg, Union of South Africa, carried  the following article concerning her on August 11, 1960: 

Unusual Post for an Unusual Woman
    "It seldom happens that a woman, after her husband’s death, can take over his job.  That is the case with Mrs. Nancy van Schaik, lecturer in Genetics in the Agricultural Section of the University of Pretoria.  Mrs. van Schaik, an attractive American woman, received her Doctor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, where she was married to one of her fellow students, Dr. Theodore van Schaik, a lecturer at the local University. Sadly, Dr. Theodore van Schaik died October 21, 1959 leaving Mrs. van Schaik with two small sons, age 21 months and the eldest at age 4. At the end of the year, his wife took over his post at the University.
   "At 8:30 every morning, Saturdays also, Mrs. van Schaik’s day of lecturing for agricultural students begins.  In between, she is busy full time in her laboratory with experiments – some that take a day – some that stretch over a period of weeks.  Meanwhile she is busy with an experiment on fruit flies, and also on the chromosomes of corn plants and onion sprouts.
   "Although her day consists to a large extent in giving lectures and performing experiments, she is also a diligent housewife, and her greatest interest is her two sons of two and five years.  If she has a free moment, she also enjoys doing a bit of gardening." 


Mrs. Van Shaik's career consisted of the followed positions: Lecturer, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1952-1954; lecturer, U. Pretoria, South Africa, 1957-1965; senior lecturer, U. Pretoria, South Africa, 1966-1973; associate professor, U. Pretoria, South Africa, 1974; professor, department head, U. Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1975-1995; professor emeritus, U. Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  She was well known as a noteworthy genetics educator publishing a book, Drosophila Genetics: A Practical Course. 

In addition to her mother visiting Mrs. Van Shaik while she and the boys lived in South Africa, Libby Ann Dunseth visited her there while Mrs. Dunseth was a member of a flying safari. Mrs. Van Schaik returned several times to Lawrenceville and while in town, she often gave slide shows of South Africa to organizations.