Jonathan Roth, professor emeritus of biology, dies at 86

Jonathan Roth, professor emeritus of biology.

GOSHEN, IND. – Dr. Jonathan N. Roth, professor emeritus of biology at Goshen College, passed away in Goshen on March 13, 2024, at the age of 86. He taught at the college for 42 years, from 1962 to 2004.

Roth was born in the Willamette Valley in Albany, Oregon, on March 2, 1938. He graduated from Goshen College in 1959 before earning his doctorate from Oregon State University. He returned to his alma mater in 1962 and dedicated over four decades to shaping the minds of students and advancing scientific research.

During his tenure, he taught a wide array of courses in microbiology, zoology, marine biology and botany, and served as a department chair. His engaging teaching style, often punctuated with colorful stories, endeared him to students and colleagues alike.

Jonathan Roth, 1979-80

Roth’s influence extended beyond the classroom, as he played a pivotal role in establishing Goshen College’s marine biology program. He began the program with his biology colleague Dr. C. Franklin Bishop in 1966 with expeditions to Pigeon Key and later expanded to Layton, Florida. His post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Miami’s Institute of Marine Science fueled his passion for marine research, leading to the development of the college’s marine biology station.

Jonathan Roth, 1978

“I have many wonderful memories of a wide variety of conversations with Jon,” said Duane Kauffmann, a retired professor of psychology at Goshen College who worked with Roth on the marine biology program. “He was an excellent teacher, equally at home in the lab explaining the microbiology of what happens to food which is not refrigerated or on a mudflat in Florida Bay describing how a small shrimp enjoys its meal eating the tube feet of an urchin.”

Roth’s contributions to marine biology and education culminated in the college naming the marine biology station and laboratory in his honor in 2009: the J.N. Roth Marine Biology Station.

Jonathan Roth, 1991

Roth and his wife, Mary Ann (Smucker) Roth ’60, led a Study-Service Term (SST) group to Nicaragua, fostering cultural exchange and global understanding among students. Even in retirement, Roth remained active in his field, founding Micrology Laboratories and Roth Bioscience, a water testing and microbiology company. He invented and patented numerous innovative and easy-to-use microbiological testing methods and products. His products, methods and inventions are in use all over the world.

Roth was preceded in death by his son, Steven Roth; his parents, Ruth and Urban Roth; his parents-in-law Orrin ’31 and Blanche Smucker. He is survived by his wife Mary Ann; his son, Geoffrey Roth ’93 of Boston; his daughter, Brooke ’00 (Justin ’00) Rothshank of Goshen; his grandchildren, Layton, Linden and Bryn Rothshank.

Visitation will be on Saturday, May 4, 2024, from 10 a.m. to noon. A memorial service in celebration of Roth’s life will be held Sunday, May 5, 2024, at 3 p.m. Both events will take place at College Mennonite Church in Goshen. A livestream of the service will be available here.

Memorial donations may be directed to Doctors Without Borders to provide safe drinking water.