Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on May 25, 2022. – Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the news that Dr. Iris Cofman Anderson, 82, of Yorktown, VA died May 5th, 2022 in her daughter’s home in Nahant, MA. Iris was a current tenured professor at VIMS and was a treasured colleague, advisor, mentor, and friend to many, including two students who graduated last week. 

Professor Anderson was born on October 3, 1939. She loved performing in school theatre productions and graduated as valedictorian of Lynn Classical High School in 1956 at the age of 16. She earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Colby College in 1960 and went on to pursue graduate work at MIT where she met her future husband, Griffin Anderson, as a member of the MIT sailing club. After completing her master’s degree and most of her doctoral work, she left MIT in 1963 to marry Griff and move to Virginia where they raised three daughters – Mara, Elana, and Rebecca. She later completed her Ph.D. at the Medical College of Virginia in 1981. It is no mistake that two of her daughters bear the initials ERA and RNA!

Professor Anderson came to W&M/VIMS in 1992 as an adjunct, fully joined the faculty in 1993, and served as Graduate Dean from 2002 to 2010.  She was a leading expert in the study of estuarine and coastal carbon and nitrogen cycling. Over the last 30 years, she mentored more than 15 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to become leading professors at universities including the University of Connecticut, W&M/VIMS, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

In 2019 Dr. Anderson was awarded the prestigious Odum Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). She served as co-Editor-in-Chief of CERF’s flagship journal, Estuaries and Coasts, from 2010 to 2013, and Reviews Editor from 2013 to 2017. Additionally, she was recognized with a number of other honors, including the VIMS Outstanding Faculty Research Award (2020), the VIMS Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), a Plumeri Award from William & Mary (2012), and the Dean’s Prize for the Advancement of Women in Marine Science (2003).

Iris and Griff shared a love of sailing and spent much of their spare time sailing the Chesapeake Bay with their family and friends. She was a connoisseur of ice cream and always promised to someday write a book about the best ice cream of the Chesapeake Bay. She loved reading, cycling, Frisbee, and had a mean backhand. She was also an animal lover who was rarely without a cat in her lap.

Iris was preceded in death by her husband, Griff, who died in February 2021, and her parents, Jules and Beatrice Cofman. She is survived by her sister, Sandra Ectman of Peabody, MA, and her daughters – Mara Anderson of Gainesville, VA; Elana Anderson and her husband, Jesper Kornerup, and their daughters Julia and Hannah of Nahant, MA; and Rebecca Anderson of Reading, MA – and by her nieces and nephews and their children, as well as the many colleagues and students who adored her.

A memorial service for Professor Anderson was held on May 17th in Sharon, MA. Suggested organizations for donations in Iris’s memory, as well as a place to provide memories and notes of condolence to the family can be found here.

Iris was an exceptional member of the VIMS and W&M community. We miss her tremendously but know that her legacy is carried forward by those who had a chance to study, work, and laugh with her.