KU community mourns death of longtime employee Lee Ann Bennett

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is mourning the death of Lee Ann Bennett, a senior research assistant at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research. Bennett, a Lawrence resident, died June 30.

Lee Ann Bennett
Lee Ann Bennett

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Lee Ann Bennett,” said Craig Freeman, senior scientist at the Biological Survey and senior curator at KU’s R.L. McGregor Herbarium, who worked closely with Bennett. “Lee Ann was kind, compassionate, humble and inquisitive. Her career in biology, and really her entire life, was devoted to helping others appreciate the beauty and diversity of the animals and plants around us. Her lifelong love of nature and the outdoors, and her intimate knowledge of many of the planet’s smallest creatures, will endure in the joy of discovery, wonderment and knowledge that she shared with all of us through her research and training. Our hearts go out to her husband, Jerry, and to Lee Ann’s entire family.”

Bennett earned three degrees from KU: a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1986, a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1992 and master’s degree in biology, focusing on entomology, in 2000. 

During her master’s studies, she was a graduate research assistant at the Biological Survey and then was employed there as a research assistant. Her work was diverse, including data analysis, editing, training students and working with actual specimens. She curated aquatic invertebrate specimens collected during research field projects, developed databases for field data collection, and provided graphical and statistical analysis of data trends.

Bennett was married to Jerry Whistler, a geographer and IT manager for the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research, who retired in 2021.

“Lee Ann was an admirable biologist who absolutely loved nature,” said Sara Baer, director of the research center and a professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. “Her taxonomic skills were vital to many of our research center’s applied programs for decades. 

“In her free time, often on weekends when no one would notice, Lee Ann and Jerry would care for the native plantings around our facilities. Lee Ann will be missed — as a friend, a colleague and a role model for kindness.”

A visitation is scheduled for 5-6 p.m. July 13 at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, 601 Indiana St., Lawrence.

Wed, 07/10/2024


Kirsten Bosnak

Media Contacts

Kirsten Bosnak

Kansas Biological Survey