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Photo of Lippitt Willey, Ruth “Scottie”

Ruth “Scottie” Lippitt Willey

Professor Emeritus

Biological Sciences


Ruth “Scottie” Lippitt Willey, aged 94, deceased in Peace, February 11, 2023. Preceded in passing by her husband Bob, on November 11, 2011. Survived by a number of nieces and nephews including Alex Lippitt(Elizabeth), David Bock (Rachel), Susie Bock , Katie Bock Rosa (Angelo) and close family friend Cecilia Gray (Frank). Scottie was born Ruth Hutchinson Lippitt in North Kingstown Rhode Island (RI), May 11, 1928. Educated in Wickford, RI through grade school and then at the Lincoln School in Providence RI graduating in 1946. She graduated from Wellesley College 4 years later, served as a docent at the Peabody Museum of Natural History for 2 years, and then became one of the first women to receive a PhD in Biology from Harvard University in 1956, the same year she married Bob Willey; they met as fellow PhD students. They received their first teaching appointments at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin until they received permanent teaching/research positions in the Biology Department at the University of Illinois Chicago where they worked from 1965 until Scottie’s retirement in 1995. During this time Scottie taught both Biology and Pre-Medical students and wrote a book on electron microscopy, along with numerous research publications. In 1996 they moved to Gunnison, Colorado permanently.

Scottie began her most important life’s work starting in 1958 at The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, Colorado which eventually named a laboratory building in her and Bob’s honor and recognized both of them with RMBL’s Lifetime Service Award in 2012. Scottie is remembered in particular for her research at, and preservation of, the Mexican Cut and rare plant species found in wetlands in Colorado. Scottie was selected to serve on the Colorado Natural Areas Council from 1995 – 1999 after her successful work to preserve Colorado Natural Areas for decades.

Scottie is known for an incident when a bulldozer arrived to dig a road through the Mexican Cut, shortly after The Nature Conservancy had purchased the property, making it a preserve. Scottie climbed up and stood on the shovel until the bulldozer turned around and left. The wetlands in the Mexican Cut were not disturbed. Her research led her to many places including work further south in Cathedral near Powderhorn. Bob and Scottie purchased a ranch in Cathedral which served as a home base for much of their research. Scottie eventually created a conservation easement, held by Colorado Open Lands, and donated the ranch to RMBL which uses it for research to this day.

Scottie was very active in her retirement, focusing on photography and her beloved annual calendars, prized by family , friends and colleagues. For a few years she wintered in Oak Park, Illinois, which was blessed with her talents in a photography club and in the James Russel Lowell Society. Back in Colorado she taught fly fishing and a love of the mountains and waters of Colorado to friends, and her many nephews and nieces, and grand nephews and nieces.

She will be remembered in a memorial gathering at RMBL on July 12, 2023, in Colorado.  If anyone is interested in attending, in person or possibly via Zoom, please contact David Bock at