U mourns retired ecology, evolution and behavior professor

Sam Kean

Few could peer as deep into a sharp V of Minnesota geese as Frank McKinney. So the passing of this world expert on waterfowl behavior leaves his field like a scattered V.

A professor emeritus in the department of ecology, evolution and behavior, D. Frank McKinney, died suddenly of a heart attack June 12 while away from his home. He is survived by Meryl, his wife of 38 years, and Lilian, his mother who lives in Canada.

In 33 years at the University before retiring in 1999, the Irish-born and English-schooled McKinney split time between the EEB department and the Bell Museum of Natural History.

As a Bell curator and later curator emeritus, McKinney advised the museum on animal behavior to ensure exhibit accuracy. Museum director Scott Lanyon said McKinney also helped form Bell Museum into an outreach tool to inform the public about University environmental research.

“He kept up morale when the museum went through a downturn in the early 1990s” through his enthusiasm and positive outlook, said Lanyon.

Most of all, McKinney exuded class, he said, a characteristic marking his legacy as a an undergraduate and graduate teacher and mentor.

But the greatest loss might have been McKinney’s wisdom. As biology shifts away from evolution, ecology and behavior studies for molecular analysis, McKinney’s passing disrupts the continuity between its wild fowl and the rest of Minnesota.


Sam Kean encourages comments at [email protected]