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Walter Rowe Courtenay, Jr. (1933–2014)

March 1, 2016

WALTER R. COURTENAY, JR., ichthyologist and retired professor, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, died in Gainesville, Florida, on 30 January 2014 at age 80. Walt was born in Neenah, Wisconsin, on 6 November 1933, son of Walter and Emily Courtenay. Walt's interest in fish began at a young age as evidenced by a childhood diary in which at 13 years of age he wrote about his first catch—a two-and-a-half pound “pike” from Lake Winnebago. When Walt turned ten, the family moved from Wisconsin to Nashville, Tennessee, the move precipitated by his father accepting a position as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. During those early days in Nashville, Walt's father would take summers off and travel to Michigan to teach at Camp Miniwanca along the shore of Lake Michigan where father and son honed their angling skills. It was also at that time Walt's father had definite views on what his son should be doing in adult life—in Walt's case it was to become a medical doctor. However, his Woods Hole internship in marine biology and oceanography toward the end of his undergraduate years was a transformative experience for him so much so that he abandoned all ideas of becoming a medical doctor and instead specialized in ichthyology and oceanography. Apart from the inherent interest and opportunities Woods Hole opened to him, being back at the shore of a large body of water, in this case the Atlantic Ocean, was far more interesting than sitting in lectures on organic chemistry. With that, Walt completed his B.A. degree at Vanderbilt University in 1956. In 1960 while in graduate school in Miami, Walt met and married Francine Saporito, and over the next several years had two children, Walter III and Catherine. He went on to receive his M.S. in 1961 from The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami on the systematics of the genus Haemulon (grunts) and his Ph.D. degree in 1965 working under his advisor C. Richard “Dick” Robins, also at Miami, with his dissertation entitled “Atlantic Fishes of the Genus Rypticus (Grammistidae): Systematics and Osteology.” Dick and wife Catherine Robins, also a fellow biologist, thought of him as a great friend to have. They fondly recalled that those of us who knew Walt in his early grad student days valued his sense of humor and unmistakable laugh, much of which was directed at bureaucratic foolishness and pomposity. However, he also had a very serious side when it came to justice and responsibility.

Publication Year 2016
Title Walter Rowe Courtenay, Jr. (1933–2014)
DOI 10.1643/OT-15-358
Authors Amy J. Benson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Copeia
Index ID 70174880
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center