Ranice W. Crosby

[ Age 91 ] Medical illustrator was the first female department head at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

February 25, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

Ranice W. Crosby, an accomplished medical illustrator and the first woman to be a department head at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, died in her sleep on Feb. 18 at Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore. She was 91.

The daughter of a salesman and a bookkeeper, Ranice W. Birch was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Upon completing high school in Providence, R.I., she attended the Connecticut College for Women, graduating in 1937.

She took a job at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1937 and began her studies in medical illustration under the department's first director, Max Brodel. The two had corresponded throughout Mrs. Crosby's college career as she looked for guidance in the medical illustration profession.

"He advised her of courses she should take [in college]," said her daughter, Ranice H. Crosby, a Baltimore resident who works as an academic administrator at Johns Hopkins. "It was just a natural fit for her."

By 1943, Mrs. Crosby was running the Art as Applied to Medicine Department as the medical school's first female department head. She led the department for 40 years.

Mrs. Crosby was a founding member of the Association of Medical Illustrators in 1945.

She married Garrie Davis in 1944; the two had a daughter, and later divorced in 1956. In 1965, she married Jon Crosby; the two divorced seven years later.

In 1983 she stepped down as department head, but she continued to teach in the department for 22 years. In fact, she never retired. Her work load decreased after she suffered a stroke in 2004, but she continued working for the university, her daughter said.

Cory Sandone, a former Johns Hopkins student who later worked with Mrs. Crosby, often carpooled with the former department head.

"She was very quick to perceive the strengths and weaknesses of an illustration," Mrs. Sandone said. "She was very direct in her evaluations. In one or two potent sentences, she could tell you what needed to be done with an illustration."

In 1984, Mrs. Crosby received the American Urological Association's William P. Didusch Art and History Award for outstanding contributions to urological illustration, and in 1987 she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of Medical Illustrators.

Anne Altemus, a 1990 graduate and current a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, said students admired and loved Mrs. Crosby.

"She taught with a strong hand, but she really nurtured the artist in every student," said Ms. Altemus, a former student of Mrs. Crosby who also is a medical illustrator and program developer at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda. "She really instilled a sense of pride in the profession that we were in. When you left you were really proud of the honor to be part of the program and the institution."

Mrs. Crosby received an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins in 2002.

In her spare time, Mrs. Crosby was an avid fiber spinner, knitter and weaver, her daughter said.

She helped to organize the Cloverhill Spinners, a craft group that was named after the street where Mrs. Crosby lived in Baltimore and where the group met.

While she was a member of the group, she participated in numerous Sheep-to-Shawl competitions at the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in Howard County. She also won numerous ribbons for her spinning at the Maryland State Fair.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

She has no survivors other than her daughter.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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