Elizabeth Phippen Rankin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 22, 1955. She lived the first eight years of her life in an apartment on Beacon Hill when regular people still lived there. Her sister Jenny was born on February 5, 1958, but shortly after their mother Jean died. Their much beloved father, Thomas Vernon Rankin, remarried Phoebe Greene Arnold and their son Thomas Greene Rankin was born on July 10, 1961. In 1963 the family moved to Milton, a suburb just south of Boston. Her parents loved traveling and summers were spent on long car and camping trips in Maine, Canada, and Virginia. When she was 16, the family drove to the Grand Canyon and then north to Yellowstone and back home across the Badlands and the Midwest. This love of travel never left Elizabeth, nor did the silver bracelet she bought that summer with birthday money from her grandmother (except when required to go through airport security).
In 1973 Elizabeth entered Princeton University in the fifth class of women to be admitted. There was still resistance from some within the institution, including one professor who insisted on calling her Mr. Rankin. She studied history and wrote her thesis on the impact of the Mejji restoration on Tokyo in the 19th century. After graduation, she spent three years in Japan teaching English. While there, Elizabeth traveled extensively throughout the country. But her love of travel got its full expression when Elizabeth spent 16 months, from September 1980 to the end of 1981, traveling on her own (though with occasional fellow travelers) through Asia and Europe. Beginning in Taiwan (going to the PRC was not an option in those days) she traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore (the best food she said), Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma (six weeks at a Buddhist monastery), India (six months, including three with her sister Jenny), Sri Lanka, the USSR (for four days in Moscow, where she saw the Bolshoi), Turkey, Greece, Italy, Paris, and home from London. It was an astonishing trip that produced long conversations and slideshows of her extraordinary photos of people and places she travelled to. More than anything though, the trip gave her a lifelong appreciation of being a traveler, a “stranger.” She never forgot the kindness of people she met and she continually extended the same effort and kindness toward people she met in the US who were from all over the world.
When she returned, Elizabeth began volunteering and then working in the development department at Oxfam America, an international development agency based in Boston. One of her jobs was to respond to donor requests for updates on the agency’s work. She also worked extensively with volunteers, where her warmth and interest in people enabled her to make volunteers feel appreciated. One of her colleagues in the education department, Marc Belanger, became a dear friend and eventually her husband on January 18, 1987. She moved to Amherst where Marc was working on a PhD in political science and they lived in Greenfield, Mass., from 1988 to 1994. Elizabeth worked for the Peace Development Fund (PDF), an Amherst-based NGO that gave grants to small community-based peace organization. Elizabeth worked with a unit at PDF that carried out training on organization development and overcoming racism. During this time, Marc and Elizabeth traveled through New England and Canada, and Elizabeth came to Guatemala in 1988 and 1990 while Marc was researching his dissertation.
In 1992, they adopted their son Rafael from Guatemala. They spent five weeks with Rafael in Antiqua, Guatemala, before returning to the US in November 1993. That next summer, Marc took a Visiting Assistant Professor position at Dickinson College in Carlisle. While he taught, Elizabeth and two-year-old Rafael explored the area, which it turned out was a major hub for one of his obsessions at the time –trucks. In August 1995, they moved to South Bend, Indiana, where Marc then worked for 28 years. They traveled early and often with Rafael and gave him the travel bug. Over the next years they traveled together to Italy, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and London, as well as many trips to Canada, Maine, and California, plus summers with Elizabeth’s family in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. All of these trips gave Rafael a particular love for airports and air travel, and that has become his work as an adult. He is currently close to obtaining his pilot’s license.
Around 2000, Elizabeth began to work with Kellogg Institute visiting fellows and their spouses as an English tutor. Her ability as a language teacher and her warmth led to more students and, once they learned of her skills as a writer and editor, to help with writing of various kinds. She assisted in the editing of several edited volumes by Kellogg faculty, and her skill at working with non-native English writers made her especially valued by all she worked with. In 2007 she began working as a writer-editor at Kellogg, a position she remained in until she retired at the end of 2017.
Elizabeth learned she had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2009 and began her first clinical trial in 2011 at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State. Over the next 10 years she was on eight different trials or medications, each of which worked for a time but eventually all were unable to produce sustained remissions. Nonetheless, until the summer of 2022, she was able to work, travel, tend her gardens, and live a very full life. She traveled in these years to Italy, Kenya, and Uganda on Kellogg projects, as well trips to Scotland, Paris (for Marc and Elizabeth’s 30th anniversary in 2017), London, Colombia, Mexico, New Mexico, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and Marc’s native California.
In all of her work and travel, which led her to meet people from all over the world, Elizabeth never lost her curiosity for people and places, or her desire to make visitors to the United States feel as welcome as so many made her feel in all of her travels around the world. She grew frustrated sometimes with the myopia of so many in the US about the rest of the world. Each Thanksgiving in her home saw a collection of people from across the world – India, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Tunisia, China, Marc’s students who were far from home, and so many other places – as guests, and Elizabeth treated them all like family.
We will miss her very much but we know that the things we learned from her – about the natural world, the responsibilities we have to Earth and each other, and the continual need to use our capabilities as fully as possible (she was not patient with lazy thinking, no matter its political stripe) will always be with us. Her Buddhist sensibility would tell us all to remember her and grieve, but go on living and trying however we can to be our very best selves and make the world better in whatever way we can. She did that every day – imperfectly she would insist – but in a way that inspired those around her.
I learned a great deal from Elizabeth as my friend, colleague for two decades, fellow yoga practitioner, and longtime cancer survivor. Elizabeth lived her life with inspiring purpose and commitment to her values. I could always count on her to provide honest and thoughtful feedback, whether on my writing, dealings with the Kellogg staff, or personal questions. Her work with Kellogg will have a lasting impact, and she will be remembered affectionately by the many of us who were the beneficiaries of her talent, kindness, and friendship.
Former Managing Director
Elizabeth made an enormous impact on the Kellogg community and the broader scholarly world in which it is situated, both through her direct role in the publications and work of numerous scholars and the more indirect effects of those publications. It was a great pleasure to work with her during my time editing the Kellogg Working Paper Series from 2006 - 2015 and I know how deeply the authors of Working Papers appreciated her key role in that enterprise. For those authors, her efforts managed to make the publication process into a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. Elizabeth's extraordinary combination of editorial acuity, personal generosity, scholarly insight and intercultural sensibility provided Kellogg fellows, visitors and associates with just the help and support they needed in their work. The good that she did will live on in many ways – including the careers and the publications of so many scholars and the good lessons that she provided through example.
Robert M. Fishman, Carlos III University Madrid
Editor, Kellogg Institute Working Paper Series, 2006-2015
Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow, 1992-2015
I had the privilege of working with Elizabeth on the Kellogg Working Paper Series for seven years. I will always remember her as someone with strong principles and beliefs, an uncommon work ethic, and a love for intellectual clarity. A gifted editor, Elizabeth edited hundreds of working papers for the series. She knew our broad Kellogg intellectual community like no other and she had a soft spot for visiting fellows. Elizabeth will be missed at Notre Dame and in every world region where Kellogg is present.
Guillermo Trejo, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame
Editor, Kellogg Institute Working Paper Series, 2015-present
Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow
When I was new to Notre Dame and to a university workplace, Elizabeth helped me in understanding and navigating the nuances of academic culture and communications. A coworker and friend, she impressed me with her skills in editing and writing and her passion for the academy and for all things international. She had a special gift for story-telling and for translating complex research into language that our interdisciplinary audiences could understand. Even after she retired, Elizabeth continued sharing her talents with Kellogg as a go-to freelancer. She was a valued member of the Kellogg team and will be missed by us all.
Karen Clay, Communications Manager
Kellogg Institute for International Studies