Dr. Charles “Chuck” Spiekerman, a longtime teacher and researcher at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, died earlier this month in a climbing accident, authorities report. Family, friends, colleagues and fellow mountaineers remembered him as a passionate scientist and a lover of the outdoors.
Dr. Spiekerman, 56, and a partner were descending a route in North Cascades National Park on Aug. 9 when the accident occurred, according to Denise Shultz, the park’s chief of visitor services. The partner was able to move to a ridge and call rangers, who flew to the scene and determined that Dr. Spiekerman had died, Shultz said. Rangers continue to investigate the cause of the accident, she said.
Climbing was a passion of Dr. Spiekerman’s, who in 1993 married his wife of 26 years Mary Emond at Seattle’s Hall of the Mountaineers before the two climbed Mount Hood and skied Mount Bachelor during their honeymoon. He had two children, Conrad and Stephanie.
He climbed throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Southeast Asia and South and Central America, a family member said, citing acclaimed mountaineer Fred Beckey as a major influence on Dr. Spiekerman.
In addition to his love of exploring and documenting new climbing routes, board games were a lifelong interest of his, the family member added.
Close friends and acquaintances alike mourned the news of Dr. Spiekerman’s passing on cascadeclimbers.com, an online forum for rock climbers in the Northwest. Fellow climbers recalled his intelligence, sarcastic wit and sense of adventure as they shared stories of past climbing trips and get-togethers with him.
Dr. Spiekerman earned a Ph.D. in biostatistics from UW in 1995. At the time of his passing, he was working as a research scientist in the oral health sciences department at the university’s School of Dentistry, according to a school spokesperson.
“Chuck was a real joy to work with,” said Brian Leroux, an oral health sciences and biostatistics professor at UW. “He made important contributions to a large number of research projects conducted in the School and he always conducted his work with the highest level of integrity … He has made a strong impact on many people in the dental research world.”
An email sent Wednesday to faculty, staff and students of the dentistry school commended Dr. Spiekerman’s research on the link between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease, and described various awards he received from journals and societies in his discipline.
Dr. Spiekerman taught introductory biostatistics to an international cohort through the dentistry school’s Summer Institute in Dental and Craniofacial Clinical Research Methods, in addition to teaching workshops in Thailand, Laos, Peru and Mexico, said Timothy DeRouen, UW professor emeritus of biostatistics, oral health sciences and global health.
Dr. Spiekerman’s contributions to the Summer Institute will be honored with a new scholarship fund established in his name, DeRouen added, which will help dental faculty from developing countries attending the program. Contributions can be sent to the Charles (Chuck) Spiekerman Scholarship Fund at the School of Dentistry Office of Advancement and External Affairs, 1959 NE Pacific St., Box 357137, Seattle, WA 98195-7137.
Information about memorial services will be posted at molesfarewelltributes.com soon.