Emeritus professor J. Ernest Warinner of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science died at his home in Gloucester on March 18, 2011. He was 85.
Warinner received his Masters’ degree from VIMS in 1962 and retired as an adjunct assistant professor in 1991. During his 30-year career at VIMS, Warinner worked closely with professors Paul Zubkoff and Beverly Anne Weeks and other colleagues in the Division of Chemistry and Toxicology to study the effects of chemical contaminants on marine life. His later work focused on how the highly contaminated waters of the Elizabeth River in lower Chesapeake Bay affected the immune system of local fishes.
Warinner's particular expertise was in the use of radioisotopes in marine research. These are unstable forms of elements such as carbon and nitrogen that can be used to trace biological and physical processes in nature. He taught a course in the use and handling of radioisotopes to VIMS graduate students, and also served as the Institute’s Safety Officer.
Current VIMS professors Rob Hale and Mike Unger remember Warinner’s course, and their joint research, with great fondness. “He was a wonderful instructor,” says Unger, “the students really looked up to him as source of information on radionuclides and how they are formed in nature and degrade in the environment.” Hale adds “He was one of the nicest guys around, and was always there to help as an instructor and research colleague.”
Bruce Keafer, who worked closely with professor Warinner in the early 1980s at VIMS, says "Ernie had a tremendous influence on my early career development." Keafer says he will be "forever grateful to Ernie for giving me my first chance to explore my interests in marine science while a college student working as a summer aide, and continuing to teach and lend his knowledge, wisdom, and patience while mentoring me as a young lab technician and graduate student."
The Rotary Club of Gloucester Point recently honored Warinner with a $5,000 named gift in support of graduate student research and scholarship at VIMS. On presenting the gift, Rotary Club president Rodney Hockaday said “We’re greatly pleased to establish this partnership with VIMS in honor of Ernie, a beloved and valued colleague and fellow Rotarian. In addition to supporting graduate students at VIMS, we hope the fellowship will help VIMS students learn about Ernie and his many professional and personal accomplishments.”
Warinner attended Hampden-Sydney College and served in the Navy at Duke University as a nurse before receiving his B.S. degree from the College of William and Mary in biology and his Master’s from the College of William and Mary’s School of Marine Science at VIMS.
Family members note that Ernie loved the water, sailing, hiking, and camping. He was devoted to his family, a great friend and mentor, and will truly be missed by everyone.