July 14, 2020  |  News & Events, Sad News, Timely Announcements


I share with you sad news from the Department of Biological Sciences. Dr. Millicent (Penny) Ficken, Professor Emerita in Biological Sciences at UW-Milwaukee, passed away on July 7, 2020.

Penny received her BS and PhD from Cornell University. She was hired by UWM in 1967 as a faculty member in the Department of Zoology (now Department of Biological Sciences) and Director of the UWM Field Station. She retired in 1999 after 32 years on the UWM faculty.

Past colleagues shared that Penny was a remarkable Ornithologist and colleague. She did ground-breaking work on the song of birds, including the discovery that chickadees have complex calls that qualify as a language and that birds “take turns” singing in the morning to avoid overlapping the songs of others. For these and many other discoveries, Penny was made a Fellow of both the Animal Behavior Society (the third woman in 1989) and the American Ornithological Society.  She was the author of more than 100 scientific papers. She also participated in local Ornithological activities and trained a large number of graduate students that hold prestigious positions around the country.

For additional information, please see Penny’s obituary online. Our condolences to Penny’s family and to the many others whose lives she touched.

Take care,


Johannes Britz
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs