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Virginia Sacressen Rausch ’50

August 5, 2019, in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

A dedicated and pioneering mammalogist, Reggie and her husband, Robert Rausch, began their careers studying the mammals and parasites of Alaska and ended their careers at the University of Washington and the Burke Museum in Seattle.

When Reggie was at Reed, she sometimes brought her brother along to her visits with professors.

“I didn’t understand half of the issues they discussed, but I felt privileged to be with her at those times,” David Sacressen remembered. “Reg had the patience to read the classics with me and was my important tutor. Reggie kept me informed of the work she did with her husband Robert concerning native diseases and chromosomes. She also taught me to be a feminist—that a woman may work at the occupation of her choice, the same as a man.”

While in Alaska, Reggie got a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She and Robert spent three years at the University of Saskatchewan and later conducted field work in China, Russia, and South America.

Over the course of their careers, the couple collectively wrote nearly 300 papers, many with a focus on Alaska’s fauna. They built significant collections integrating mammalian hosts and related parasites. More than 30,000 lots of parasites and 17,000 associated mammals from their work have been archived at natural history museums across the country. These specimens have been at the forefront of integrating research on the systematics, taxonomy, biogeography, epidemiology, and pathology of helminth parasites in vertebrate hosts.

“It is not easy to acknowledge the entire impact of Virginia and Robert Rausch on research and training of students,” said Dr. Joe Cook, professor and curator of the division of mammals at the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico. “Reggie was such a wonderful and inspirational supporter. She and Robert donated their incomparable personal collection of parasites, research library, and equipment to the museum. Those donations served as the basis for creating a new division (the Division of Parasitology) and many new investigations of parasites. After Robert’s death in 2012, Reggie remained a strong supporter of both the Divisions of Parasites and Mammals, although she never wanted public recognition for these contributions.”

She is survived by her sister, Claire, and brother, David.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2020

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