In Memoriam

Marilynn K. Rumley '52
A would-be doctor became an exceptional researcher.

Bookmark and Share

At a time when there were few opportunities for women in the sciences, Marilynn K. Rumley—"Sissy" to her friends and family—majored in zoology with the goal of applying to medical school. But she realized that "medical school meant several more years of starving," says her cousin Eve Deforge, and instead she took a job at Harvard Medical School as a research associate with the biological chemistry and neurology department.

Working with influential researchers, including neurologist L. Lahut Uzman and Eugene P. Kennedy, a pioneer in lipid biochemistry and cell biology, she co-authored well-received articles on enzymology, brain development and cellular metabolism. Her colleague Phyllis Elfman remembers her as a very quiet and private person who still enjoyed the camaraderie that Kennedy fostered by hosting frequent staff get-togethers at his home. Rumley delighted in the opportunity to work and socialize with physicians and post-doctoral students from all over the world. Highly respected for her intelligence and research acumen, she was also a "real person," says Elfman. "You always knew exactly what to expect from her." Rumley retired in the late 1990s after working at Harvard for more than 50 years—the only place she ever worked.

Rumley, pictured with her parents at left after graduation, encouraged her siblings and cousins to pursue an education, both in school and by exploring what lay beyond their own hometowns. By taking them to museums and restaurants in Boston and Cambridge, "she expanded our world," says Deforge.

Although modest in the extreme, Rumley, who died on Aug. 24 at age 81, could talk about anything, says close friend Pat Kling Lambert '51. "She was always up-to-date on what was going on in the world—and had an opinion about it." An avid walker, Rumley owned a car only briefly and preferred getting around on foot, says Lambert. She made many trips to Europe, England and Scotland, and especially liked exploring the British Isles in search of fine yarns to knit sweaters and mittens. She had a passion for collecting silver items and antique china, acquiring an impressive collection of Limoges porcelain.

Mindful of the financial struggles entailed in earning her own degree, Rumley left UNH a gift to endow a merit-based scholarship fund, named after her grandfather Charles F. Marble, for students enrolled in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Return to In Memoriam

blog comments powered by Disqus