CWRU community remembers staff member Bill Marx
Whether strategizing how to tackle building renovations, helping facilitate biomedical research or performing music at venues across Cleveland, William “Bill” Marx was often known as a jack of all trades. Now, members of the Case Western Reserve University are remembering this multifaceted staff member after Marx died earlier this month. He was 68.
A lab manager in the Department of Biomedical Engineering since December 2011, Marx was responsible for tasks such as acquiring instrumentation and equipment and supporting faculty researchers in their work. But as his colleagues recall, his favorite part of his role was advising students on projects and coursework, ensuring they knew how to operate effectively in the lab setting.
“Countless students benefited from Bill’s efforts,” said Robert Kirsch, professor and chair of the department, who served as Marx’s supervisor. “Everybody really liked him.”
This sentiment was echoed by Marx’s colleague Brian Wollenzier, facility and procurement manager in the department.
“Bill really wanted the students to have hands-on experiences in the lab, as he knew firsthand how important that was in the real world,” said Wollenzier. “He’d give the students guidance, but really encouraged them to use their minds to figure out the task at hand.”
While he’s remembered as most “fiercely protective” of the laboratories serving undergraduate students to ensure they “always came first,” according to longtime colleague Dave Conger, students at all levels recognized his impact. As PhD student Michael Douglass put it, “many [of us] surely have a story that ends with, ‘And then Bill just took care of that.’”
“Bill was a tremendous help organizing and maintaining our lab facilities,” agreed Ryan Hall, a recent biomedical engineering PhD graduate, “and he was always willing to help with just about anything whenever I reached out.”
An example of his willingness to go above and beyond: When his department’s research floor flooded just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, Marx leapt into action—not only coordinating the necessary renovations, but getting his hands dirty removing mud from the floors. And what’s more? He did it all with a smile.
For Conger, Marx’s immediate response to this scenario—a quick “I’ll be right there”—is just one example of his friend’s positive attitude and devotion to his work.
“There was always a kind ‘hello,’ a ‘good morning,’ and a ‘have a nice evening’ from him,” Conger said. “He will be missed for so many things.”
Among them? Marx’s ability to hold engaging conversations.
“Bill always had good stories and funny quips and knowledge of many subjects, so he made even the most tedious jobs entertaining,” said Wollenzier.
In addition, department members already miss the responsibility and responsiveness for which Marx was known.
“Bill always approached a problem with solutions or at least suggestions,” recalled Kirsch, pointing to Marx’s strong creative and strategic skills. “I never had to worry about a task if Bill was on the job.”
In his personal life, Marx’s passions were as robust as those in the professional setting. Beyond performing as a percussionist, he loved rescuing animals, entertaining friends, learning about new subjects and even arranging orchestral music—a task Wollenzier said he was well suited for given his scientific mindset. He was known to play the genre often over the radio in his office while making jokes centered on “biomedical instrumentation” and more literal musical instruments, a shtick Douglass remembers fondly.
“He was an interesting combination of an engineer during the day and a very creative musician in his off time,” said Kirsch.
“Bill is leaving a big hole in our department,” Wollenzier said. “He will be very much missed.”
Marx is survived by his daughter, Jessica Crescimano, and her husband, Eric. Read Marx’s obituary on cleveland.com.
A funeral mass will be held Saturday, Sept. 30, at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of the Lake Church (19951 Lakeshore Blvd. in Euclid), with a celebration of life immediately to follow. The family will receive friends at the church from 9 a.m. until mass begins, with a private interment to take place at Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, all are encouraged to consider contributions in Marx’s memory to the Cleveland Animal Protective League or Our Lady of the Lake Parish.
Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact University Health and Counseling Services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007.