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Eulogy for Ann E. Fullerton

April 13, 1925 - July 13, 2021

Beloved Teacher of Biology

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, 1948-1958

North Shore High School, Glen Head, NY, 1959-1980

By Harvey J. Kliman, M.D., Ph.D. '70

July 20, 2021



1968 was one of the most traumatic years in American History. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated, police had violently suppressed anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and American troops had killed many civilians in Viet Nam during the My Lai Massacre.


When the rest of my 10th grade classmates and I entered Ann E. Fullerton’s biology class in September of 1968, we had no respect for any of our teachers, the school, or our country. Life was chaotic, dangerous and disrupted. The last thing we wanted to do on our first Monday back at school was to sit in class and hear a teacher talk about biology.


However, Miss Fullerton, as we came to know her, operated in a world of her making, shutting out the turbulence and trauma that whirled around us. She started exactly on time – ignoring our disorganized entrance and meanderings to our desks – explaining in detail her expectations for us, our responsibilities, and how and when our homework would be graded and judged.


In turn, we ignored her.


When we came back for the next class, everything had been removed from the counter tops, window sills, bulletin boards, and her desk. As we shuffled in, she announced, "Class, sit down for your first test." First TEST, we said. How can we have a test when all we did on Tuesday was listen to you tell us about our notebooks, homework assignments, and test schedule? "You didn't tell us we would be having a test," some of us mumbled. She ignored us and handed out the test.


First question: Name 4 objects that were on my desk. Second question: Name 5 objects that were on the window sills. Third question: Name 5 objects that were on the counters. Fourth Question: Name 3 objects that were on the back bulletin board.


Are you serious, we thought? She stood at the front of the class and said, "You have 5 minutes to complete the test."


We did the best we could, but who could possibly answer those questions? Seventeen objects around the room. We hadn't even looked around the room that day!


At the end of five minutes, Miss Fullerton collected our tests, turned to face us and said in her confident and declarative voice: "A good biologist is a good observer." And then she started her first lesson.


That moment changed my life. In the midst of all the chaos and death that surrounded me was this safe, protected harbor of the mind that looked at the world through the lens of a biologist. I immersed myself in the safe shelter that Miss Fullerton had created and learned to revel in the beauty of life, the intricacies of ecosystems, the magic of developmental biology, and the wonder of the cell.


My path to science, medical school, an MD, PhD and career as a physician scientist at Yale University all started on the day that Miss Fullerton gave us our first test in September of 1968. After all of these years, she has remained one of my most important mentors, and the only mentor from all of my pre-college years with whom I have stayed in touch - speaking with her at least once a year since my graduation from high school in 1971.


I know I am but one of her many students whom she has inspired. There were over 100 of her past students at her 80th birthday party who became doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. And there are hundreds more who were not able to be at her party - or may not have spoken with her since high school - and that she touched in profound ways. I am also sure that many of you hearing or reading this will be able to relate in your own way to the moment that Miss Fullerton inspired you.


We were all blessed to have had Miss Ann E. Fullerton as our teacher and we will all carry her memory and legacy on by the many ways we all have - and will - make the world a better place because of her.

Harvey J. Kliman, M.D., Ph.D.

Yale University School of Medicine

Director, Kliman Laboratories Reproductive and Placental Research Unit,

Research Scientist, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences