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School of Science mourns the loss of past department chair

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jay A. Siegel, Ph.D. died at home in his sleep on September 25, 2017, in Mt. Arlington, New Jersey due to heart failure.  He was 71.

Jay is survived by his wife Margaret Wilke of Mt. Arlington, NJ; his daughter Samantha Linehan and her husband Nick of Hackettstown, NJ, and son Paul Siegel of Brooklyn, NY; and his two grandsons Tommy and Ben Linehan of Hackettstown, NJ.  He is also survived by his two sisters Judy Siegel of Gaithersburg, MD and Pam Douglas and her husband Ed of Las Vegas, NV.

Jay was born on April 16, 1946, in Washington D.C. to Samuel and Mae Siegel.  He graduated from George Washington University with a doctorate degree in chemistry in 1975.  He married Margaret Wilke in 1976.  After working as a forensic chemist with the Virginia Bureau of Forensic Sciences, Jay spent over 35 years as a forensic science educator and researcher at Metropolitan State College in Denver, CO, Michigan State University (Professor Emeritus) in East Lansing, MI, and Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, IN, where he also served as a department chair.  Several forensic sciences undergraduate and graduate programs blossomed under his leadership. Jay was an author and editor of several forensic science books and editor in chief of the massive Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences. He was honored as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and as a Distinguished Alumni Scholar at The George Washington University.

Jay was proud of his children and grandchildren and enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  For over 30 years, he annually gathered many friends for 5-day trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, where he organized play tickets, lodging, and meals, all through his in-name-only travel agency, Miracle Travel. These wonderful times together will be sorely missed by his friends, including his good-natured competitiveness when sitting down at a card table. Jay was outstanding in the classroom—both demanding and engaging. So memorable were his stories about his forensic science cases that after he retired, he was employed by cruise lines to do onboard lectures for the cruise guests on days at sea. They were very well attended, especially after the word spread: “You have to hear this guy!”  He stayed connected with people across the globe through his world travels, especially his five trips with wife Maggie to visit friends and see Australia.  He will be remembered as an excellent teacher, mentor, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the charity of your choice.

This past week the forensic science community lost an influential and dedicated leader, Dr. Jay Siegel. "Just Science" is releasing a special "Just So You Know" episode interviewing Dr. Max Houck and John Collins, two of Dr. Siegel’s closest colleagues. In this short episode, we remember a kind-hearted, dedicated educator of forensic scientists, whose reach was felt internationally. The community has lost someone who is considered a forefather for education in forensics, please join us as we celebrate a life that gave so much to his beloved community.

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Please consider a small donation in Jay’s name to help students network, and expand their forensic science educational pursuits just as Jay was so passionate about. 

When I first met Jay, I knew him by reputation alone.  He then became my graduate advisor, my mentor, my colleague and my good friend.  His effect on me personally and professionally was immeasurable. — John Goodpaster, FIS Director

I can’t say enough about Jay. I met Jay in 1987 as an undergraduate student at Michigan State University. I was hooked on forensics from the day he stepped into my Criminal Justice class and invited everyone to come check out the lab.  I was the only one that showed up that day.  As a student I struggled. I got a C on his first exam, and I actually went to him and apologized. Jay apparently saw a lot of potential in me and kicked my butt when I needed it.  He pushed me to be better and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. A large part of who and what I am today is due to him.  Jay and I were in intermittent contact since I graduated in 1991. My last conversations with Jay were about two weeks before he passed away, and I took that opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated all his years of support, encouragement and everything he’s done for me. —Donna ​Roskowski, FIS Faculty

Jay was the ultimate cheerleader for forensic science, for women in science and for me.  Jay really made me believe that I could do this job, and that I could do it successfully. —Christine Picard, FIS Faculty

Jay and I had a relationship that grew over the years.  When we first met in 2004, he was my advisor and teacher of analytical chemistry and introduced me to the wonderful world of forensic science and teaching.  He pushed for me to apply to be a lecturer in the School of Science for Chemistry and Forensic Science, then became my mentor in 2006 and helped me become a great teacher and student advocate.  In 2012, Jay and I worked side by side teaching a forensic microscopy workshop at Penn State University, in that moment I became a colleague with Jay.  However, throughout our relationship Jay has always been my friend.  Someone that I could talk with about life, science and my career.  He is the reason that I am where I am today and he molded my career in forensic science, teaching and even online education. —Gina Londino-Smolar, FIS Faculty

Jay made quite an impact on everyone who had the pleasure of interacting with him and has left a legacy. He will be greatly missed.—Megan Carrison, former FIS student

Dr. Siegel was a great professor, teacher, mentor! He will be greatly missed! —Dee Ann Turner,  former FIS student

He was an amazing man, director and professor! We talked occasionally even after I graduated.  I know he will be missed. — Crystal Adams, former FIS student

Jay not only built something great in the FIS Program, he changed so many student lives. He believed in them and helped them see what no one else did. —Amy Maidi, FIS Program Coordinator