Anne Dranginis, a nationally recognized microbiologist and professor at St. John's University, was an intellectual, a beloved educator and advocate for the advancement of women and minorities in the sciences.
Dranginis, a 25-year resident of Glen Cove, died April 18 after a five-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 66.
Her significant research was on the FLO11 gene and how its presence contributes to the adhesion and grouping of cells. Her work drew a long line of federal grants and awards, including an honor by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which elected her a fellow in 2014.
"She loved science. After her diagnosis, she worked up until she couldn't work anymore. That was her biggest regret because she loved her students," said her sister, Patricia Dranginis-Shulman, a physician in DeLeon Springs, Florida.
In the laboratory and in the classroom, she had a powerful way of explaining complex issues in very plain words, her colleagues and former students said.
"She taught me not only molecular biology and genetics but she taught me how to be a better person," said one of her former doctoral students, Li Li of Huntington, who went on to become a research scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Her humanity and her generosity had a much bigger impact beyond science."
Dranginis' companion, Philip Furmanski, a former executive vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers University and a cancer biology professor, said he was instantly drawn to her when they met seven years ago.
"She was very intelligent and quite strikingly beautiful. We shared a commonality, a sense of inquiry and experimentation that people who are interested in science have," Furmanski said.
She was an adventure-seeker who went white-water rafting while her cancer was in remission. She was a marathon runner, experienced horseback rider and occasionally went parachute-jumping. Dranginis was also known for rescuing injured animals on the side of the road and helping to protect the habitat of geese that migrated to a pond near her home in Glen Cove.
"She understood the circle of life and the importance that all animals play in ecology and that all living things were connected," Dranginis-Shulman said. "She knew all of that and really applied it to her life."
Dranginis was born on Feb. 19, 1949, in Giessen, Germany, where her parents lived on a U.S. military base. Her late father, Edward J. Dranginis, was a physician in the Army. Her mother, Nancy Singleton Dranginis, is a retired registered nurse.
Dranginis spent her childhood in Grosse Ile, Michigan. As an undergraduate at Marquette University in Milwaukee, she led a "slack-in" to protest a dress code that required women to wear dresses or skirts to class. After receiving her PhD at the University of Michigan, Dranginis moved to Washington, where she worked as a senior staff fellow at the National Institutes of Health, studying biological cell interactions through experiments with yeast.
She joined the faculty at St. John's University in 1992 and was a founding member of the university's Women in Science Society. In her memory, the university has established the Anne Dranginis Memorial Fund. Contributions can be made c/o Laraine Dress-Salvatore, Department of Biological Sciences, St. John's University, St. Albert Hall, Room 221, 8000 Utopia Pkwy., Queens, New York 11439. An event commemorating her life and work will take place in the fall.
Dranginis is survived by her mother, two sisters, two brothers and several nieces and nephews.