Ilse L. Riegel


Ilse L. Riegel, a senior scientist at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, died peacefully with her children at her side on Sunday, June 27, 2004, at her home in Madison, after a short illness from lung cancer. She was born on June 16, 1916, in Berlin, Germany, to Steven S. and Charlotte Leers. At age 10, she moved with her parents from Germany to the United States, residing in West New York and New Jersey through high school. Despite the switch of language at school from German to English, she was valedictorian of her high school class (as was her older sister, Kate, the previous year). Ilse was also the New Jersey state champion in shorthand stenography. After graduation in 1935, she went to work at Consumer Research magazine in New York City. Following a labor dispute that led to a strike against that magazine, she and several colleagues formed a new organization called Consumers Union, which exists to this day as the publisher of "Consumer Reports" magazine. She was on the cover of the October 1936 issue of the magazine as a model for an article on toothpaste. In 1937, she began undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1941. She married Reinholdt W. Riegel, a fellow UW student, on Aug. 31, 1940. During World War II, while Reinholdt served as an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine on oceangoing convoys, Ilse moved to New York City, where she worked at the Applied Mathematics Institute of New York University. After the war, the couple returned to Madison to resume their studies. Ilse applied to medical school, but was turned down because they were not taking any women that year. She taught fulltime for a year, and then obtained her M.A. in zoology in 1949, and her Ph.D. in medical physiology in 1952. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the McArdle Laboratory in 1952, starting a professional relationship with that institution that would last for more than 52 years. She was the managing editor of the Cancer Research journal for 10 years. At McArdle Laboratory, she was a project associate, an assistant to the director, and then a senior scientist. She reduced her hours to halftime when she turned 70, and continued to work as a senior scientist until the month that she died. She also did bilingual scientific editing and translation for the Springer-Verlag company. In addition to her professional career, she was also involved with the Madison Public Schools, serving as president of the West High School PTA in 1968. One of Ilse's proudest achievements was her involvement for the past 25 years in an early-morning aerobic exercise class. She not only attended the 6:30 a.m. sessions, but she walked daily to the class in the pre-dawn darkness in time to set up the room and the audio equipment. She was also very involved in yoga classes. She is survived by her son, Steven J. (Natalie) Riegel of Alexandria, Va.; her daughter, Kate E. (Mark) Riegel Williams of North Plainfield, N.J.; and three granddaughters, Carolyn Riegel of Alexandria, and Chloe and Charlotte Williams of North Plainfield. She was preceded in death by her husband, Reinholdt, in 1998.

Donations in Ilse’s honor may be made to the McArdle Laboratory Ilse Riegel Scholarship Fund to benefit graduate students at the Laboratory (c/o Director, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1111 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705).