Frank Trainor, Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dies

A candle burning.
Professor emeritus Francis R. Trainor (Virge Kask/UConn Photo)
Professor emeritus Francis R. Trainor (Virge Kask/UConn Photo)

Francis (Frank) Rice Trainor, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, died on Feb. 12, in Storrs, after a short period of declining health. He turned 84 on Feb. 11.

Trainor was known to his family and friends, the town of Mansfield, and colleagues around the globe for his optimism, kindness, and generosity.

Trainor was born in Pawtucket, R.I., and earned a BS from Providence College in 1950, and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University in 1957. He started his career at the University of Connecticut in 1957, and over a period of 40 years, trained 19 doctoral students and many master’s and undergraduate students. He was an inspiring teacher both inside and outside the classroom, conveying an infectious enthusiasm for the natural world, and for learning and exploration.

Best known in the scientific community for his influential work on phenotypic plasticity, growth, and sexual reproduction in green micro-algae, his research covered an extensive range of topics.

Trainor was president of the Phycological Society of America, and president of the Northeast Algal Society. He received many professional honors, including an honorary doctorate from Providence College in 2010, the Darbaker Award from the Botanic Society of America, and the Phycological Society of America Award of Excellence.

“Dr. Trainor made a lasting mark on the field of algal research, and was well-decorated for his scientific contributions,” says Louise Lewis, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a former colleague of Trainor’s. “However, listing his over 100 publications would not explain why he was a successful mentor and so loved and respected by students, friends, and colleagues. Dr. Trainor was a kind, gentle, and open-minded person who recognized the best in people and tried to nurture everyone he met. He conveyed a great love of life and of learning, and an infectious optimism that touched many people. That’s why I will celebrate his life.”

After retiring in 1997, Trainor remained active, teaching at the Mansfield Senior Center, writing, and participating in town and church committees. Trainor was an expert on wood identification and carving, especially of simple, stylized bird forms. Many of these were sold at scientific conferences or local fairs to raise funds for non-profit organizations. He also was a fan of the Husky basketball teams.

He is survived by Margaret (Peg) Trainor nee Swanton, to whom he was married for 56 years, sister Ruth Gruodis and her husband Ray, and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews. He is predeceased by brothers Rev. James Trainor, Paul Trainor, Leo Trainor, John Trainor, and sister Mary Trainor.

A visitation will be held on Friday, Feb. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Potter Funeral Home in Willimantic. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 at noon at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Storrs, followed by a reception in the Aquinas Center. The burial will be private. A celebration of his academic life will take place at a later date.

To express condolences, please visit for the online memorial guestbook. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a fund for graduate student research named in Trainor’s honor. To make a donation, please make checks payable to: The UConn Foundation Inc., with Francis Rice Trainor Endowment Fund #30244 in the memo line, and forward to: The UConn Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive, Unit 3206, Storrs, CT 06269.