Julie Rankin

Julie with her husband John
Julie with her husband John "Stubby" Rankin

It’s safe to say that Julie Rankin lived her life with vigor. Those who knew her remember her spunkiness, spark, and commitment to service at both MBL and throughout Woods Hole.

Julie’s volunteer activities spanned the village—from the Children’s School of Science to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to the Woods Hole Historical Museum to MBL, where she served as tour guide extraordinaire.

“Julie was absolutely spectacular—she loved the Library,” says Cathy Norton, MBLWHOI Library Scholar and former Library Director. “She always asked the right questions and she always had everyone engaged, even the young kids. She was a spitfire.”

Julie and her husband John “Stubby” Rankin met at MBL. Their 45-year marriage, like that of so many other MBL couples, was anchored by their connection to the Laboratory.

Stubby got his start at MBL in 1932 as a student in the Marine Invertebrate course. He developed a close friendship with George Gray, then-Manager of the Supply Department, who taught Stubby preservation techniques for the marine animals MBL collected for its scientists.

After completing his Ph.D. Stubby returned to MBL to instruct the Marine Invertebrate course. It was there in 1941 that he met Julie, a graduate student. The couple married in 1942 and a year later moved to the University of Connecticut, where they remained for the next 33 years.

Summers were spent in Woods Hole, where Stubby dedicated his time to the Supply Department and was the MBL’s resident summer naturalist. He also served as an MBL Corporation Life Member and Trustee in the Class of 1955 but was perhaps best remembered as a teacher.

Except for a short defection to the University of Connecticut Marine Science Laboratory at Noank, where Stubby served as Founding Director, the Rankins returned to Woods Hole each summer. Julie and Stubby both were involved in sailing activities at the Woods Hole Yacht Club, and Julie continued with her vigorous volunteer pursuits around town.

In an obituary published in MBL’s The Collecting Net in 1987, John Valois, longtime MBL Supply Department Manager and a protégé of Stubby’s, wrote, “His love of teaching radiated from him as did his tireless enthusiasm for inspiring his students. His influence at the MBL was not in research but in leaving, for all time, a history of learning.”

After Stubby’s death, Julie established a fund in his name used to purchase books at the MBLWHOI Library in the fields of natural history and marine invertebrates. Over the years, his friends were very involved in what to buy in Stubby’s name,” says Cathy Norton. “It was their way of keeping his spirit alive.”

Julie continued her busy lifestyle after Stubby passed and enjoyed traveling with her longtime friend Pete Swain. In 2006, after a decline in health and Pete’s death, Julie moved to a senior-living community in Falmouth and three years later to JML Care Center, where she died on October 25, 2011, at the age of 92.

Following Julie’s intent, in 2007 her daughter Joan Berman established the Stubby and Julie Rankin Endowed Library Fund, a gift of $50,000 for the enduring benefit of the MBLWHOI Library.

“My mom and dad had a strong commitment to MBL and to the science done there,” says Joan. “It’s where they met. Given Stubby’s history as a naturalist and ecologist at MBL and his holistic approach to science, the Library was a good match, as it does not support any one program but the whole of MBL.”


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