SCHEELE, WILLIAM E. (4 April 1920-10 Oct. 1998) was the director of the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY from 1949-1972. He was born in Cleveland to Pauline M. (Karl) and William C. Scheele, a bricklayer. He graduated from West Tech High School, Western Reserve University (see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY), and the Cleveland School of Art (see CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF ART). He served in WORLD WAR II from 1942 to 1946 as an officer in the Engineer Corps.
While director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Scheele organized explorations and archeological digs to find items to add to the museum's collection. Rare dinosaur skeletons and fish fossils dating back millions of years were among his many discoveries. In 1954, Scheele led a foray in Canyon City, Colorado, where his group unearthed the remains of a Haplocanthosaurus dinosaur. This skeleton became the focal point of the museum's Dinosaur Hall. During the excavation of I-71 in the 1960s, the museum used federal money to obtain huge chunks of 360-million-year-old Devonian-era rock for its collection. During the 1960s, Mr. Scheele became an active environmentalist and received many awards, including the National Conservation Award from American Motors Co. in 1972. When a Harvard University professor discovered a new species of rare Mississippian salamander, he named the species Protogyrinus scheelei in recognition of Scheele's re-establishment of a paleontology program and laboratory at the Cleveland museum.
In 1972, Scheele became the executive director of the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. Later he served as the director of the South Carolina State Museum, the Miami Museum of Science and the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Georgia. Scheele was a founding member of the Ohio chapter of the Nature Conservancy. He also painted wildlife and natural history subjects and won awards in watercolor and illustration in the Cleveland MAY SHOW. He wrote and illustrated seven books on paleontology and other related subjects. Scheele had a weekly nature column in the CLEVELAND PRESS from 1950 to 1972.
Scheele was married to his wife Joann for fifty-five years. They had three sons, William G., John, and Paul. Scheele died in his retirement home in Lake Oswego, Oregon.