AU Dean killed in Friday morning accident, another injured

AUBURN, AL (WAFF) - Dr. Marie Wooten, Dean of Auburn University's College of Sciences and Mathematics died in a pedestrian and vehicle traffic accident early Friday morning on South College Street at Donahue Drive.

Auburn officials say Auburn Police Division officers responded to the accident at 5:45 a.m. Officers say Wooten and another woman were hit by a vehicle as they crossed the street while jogging.

The driver of the 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier, a 58-year-old Auburn man, was traveling southbound on South College Street at the time of the accident. He was not injured.

One of the pedestrians, identified as 39-year-old Frankie A. Bell of Opelika, was flown from the scene by Life Saver helicopter to Columbus Medical Center with serious injuries. Her condition is unknown at this time.

The second pedestrian, 53-year-old Wooten of Auburn, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident is under investigation by the Auburn Police Division and the Lee County Coroner's Office.

"This is a terrible tragedy for the Auburn family," Auburn University President Jay Gogue said. "We express our condolences to Dean Wooten's family, colleagues and students."

Wooten began serving as dean Aug. 1 after working as associate dean for research from 2000 to 2010. She joined the Auburn faculty in 1987 and served as the Sharnagel Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

"We are devastated," said Provost Mary Ellen Mazey. "Dean Wooten brought such outstanding passion, energy and leadership to the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the entire university. She was beloved by her students, and widely respected for work and research that will continue to improve lives far into the future. Our hearts and our prayers go out to her family."

Under Wooten's direction, external funding secured by the College of Sciences and Mathematics doubled over a 10-year period. Her research interests included cellular and molecular developmental neurobiology and neurodegeneration. She recently discovered a genetic link between obesity and Alzheimer's disease, which could be the first step in curing the memory-debilitating illness that affects millions of individuals, especially the elderly.

Widely recognized for her contributions as a mentor, scientist, scholar and academic administrator, Wooten was committed to student training and outreach. She was cofounder of the Institute for Women in Sciences and Engineering and provided leadership in developing numerous education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. Wooten also was a member of the National Science Foundation ADVANCE program, which focuses on enhancing diversity in STEM fields.

Additionally, Wooten held grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association, NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She earned two patents and commercialized one technology.

Wooten earned her Bachelor of Science in microbiology from the University of Memphis and her doctorate in cell and molecular biosciences from Texas Women's University. She did postdoctoral training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She was a visiting scientist at institutions in both South Africa and Spain.

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