Auburn dean killed in traffic accident, funeral plans announced


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Updated: Funeral arrangements for Dean Wooten have been announced

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) – The dean of Auburn University's sciences and math was struck and killed by a car Friday morning.

Fifty-three-year-old Marie Wooten was running with 39-year-old Frankie Bell along South College Street at South Donahue Drive around 5:45 a.m. when they were struck by a car.

Wooten was pronounced dead at the scene. The Lee County coroner says she was killed instantly.

Bell, of Opelika, was flown from the scene to the Medical Center in Columbus, GA to be treated for serious injuries.

Bell says his wife asks about her friend, Marie Wooten, every day from her hospital bed.  "They were more than good friends.  They were like two peas in a pod," explained Felix Bell.

Bell is in stable condition at Columbus Regional Medical Center and was moved out of ICU late Monday night.  The family asks for continued prayers.

Felix Bell tells News Leader Nine he is not seeking revenge against the driver of the car that struck his wife. "I just thank God that he stopped.  That he was able to pick up the phone and call for help."

Authorities say the driver, 58-year-old David Sawyer, was not injured.  Sawyer was driving a 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier at the time of the accident.

Wooten,  of Auburn, was the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Auburn University.

Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in this accident.

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

We are told a visitation will be held Thursday, November 11  from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home located at 1500 Frederick Road in Opelika.  Funeral services are scheduled to be held Friday, Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of Auburn United Methodist Church, located at 220 East Magnolia Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Marie W. Wooten Memorial Scholarship Fund.  Checks should be made payable to the "AU Foundation" and mailed to the College of Sciences and Mathematics, 315 Roosevelt Concourse, Auburn University, Auburn, Ala. 36849-7350.

2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.

The following is a press release from AU:

The City of Auburn Police Division announced this morning that Marie Wooten, dean of Auburn University's College of Sciences and Mathematics, was struck and killed by an automobile at the intersection of South College Street and South Donahue Drive.

According to the police report, Wooten, 53, of Auburn and Frankie A. Bell, 39, of Opelika were struck at approximately 5:45 a.m. as they crossed South College Street while jogging. Bell was airlifted to Columbus, Ga., Regional Medical Center; her condition was not available at the time of this news release. The accident is under investigation.

"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.