Marion Anne Jenkinson was born in Lancaster, Ohio, on 10 April 1937, the daughter of Bryan and Thelma Cox Jenkinson, and died accidentally on 7 July 1994 in her home in Lawrence, Kansas. Survivors include an adopted daughter, Tracy Lynn Kester; her mother, Thelma; two sisters, Nancy Corbally and Rebecca Dusek; a brother, Bill Jenkinson; and two grandchildren, Rick and Heather Kester. She was predeceased by her husband, Robert M. Mengel, whom she married on 21 December 1963. They worked closely together in many ornithological pursuits until Robert's death on 15 January 1990 (see Tordoff 1991).
Marion grew up in London, Ohio, and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in 1954 from Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio. After teaching high school biology for two years in Mifflin, Ohio, she entered graduate school to study ornithology at the University of Kansas, receiving a Master of Arts in Zoology in 1963.
Marion was appointed as an Adjunct Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Natural History at the University of Kansas in 1968. For the rest of her life, she worked extensively with the avian collections in the museum. She organized collections, oversaw their computerization, and was a major contributor to the successful seeking of grant support for them. In particular, she worked to develop the already world-class avian skeletal collection, significantly adding to the numbers of specimens and species represented.
Marion joined the AOU in 1960, became an Elective Member in 1977, a Fellow in 1987, and an Elective Councilor in 1983 and 1993. She worked tirelessly for the AOU. She served as Treasurer and as Chair of the Finance Committee from 1985 to 1993, instituting major modifications that helped place the AOU on a firm financial and business footing; Marion was one to carefully study and research what needed to be done—and then to take action. She was an original and active AOU representative on the management committee of the Birds of North America project. Marion also contributed countless hours to The Auk during Robert Mengel's tenure as Editor (she was designated as an Associate Editor in 1966–1967), as well as during his time as Editor of Ornithological Monographs in the early 1970s (Marion was Special Editor for monograph no. 12). She had an eye for detail, but also for untangling and simplifying convoluted phrases and sentences in such a way that helped authors present their ideas with greater clarity. Robert was quoted as saying that Marion was “the best editor I have ever known” (Tordoff 1991).
Marion was a member of the AOU Collections Committee from 1975 through 1985, serving as its chair for the last six years. She was effective in mobilizing many of us to become actively involved in survey projects of world collections and was successful in obtaining National Science Foundation support for an international survey of avian anatomical specimens.
Marion's dedication to the AOU was acknowledged by the Council in 1996 when it established the Marion Jenkinson AOU Service Award. The award is given in recognition of individuals who have performed continued extensive service to the AOU, including holding elected office, but emphasizing volunteered contributions and committee participation.
One project to which Marion was particularly devoted was the Latin American Library Enhancement Project, which provided library resources to 100 universities in Latin America. She was a founder and codirector with Mercedes S. Foster of that endeavor sponsored by the Council of Biology Editors and supported by Allen Press, as well as numerous other organizations. One individual familiar with the project noted that it “flourished because Marion cut through the bureaucracy and indecision that usually accompany decisions involving large numbers of people; she simply raised the money and did the work herself,” with the help of a few other people. Marion managed the project finances, as well as the packaging and shipment of many tons of literature.
Marion was a person of strong views and convictions concerning professional matters, politics, and many other subjects. She was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and also supported humanitarian programs in the Lawrence community. She made her views known and it was clear where she stood, whether it be as a promoter of a particular AOU project or as an advocate for teachers rewarding students with nutritious snacks rather than candy.
Marion was generous with her friends and with others. She was a consummate story teller, particularly when paired with Robert in a small group of friends. Marion liked to read, particularly about history, and greatly enjoyed travel. She adopted Robert's fascination with fly fishing, and a number of their joint exploits are chronicled in his book Fly Fisherman's Odyssey (Mengel 1993). Through Marion's efforts, this collection of essays written over a 25 year period was published as a memorial to Robert. It has been pointed out that if one reads it, “one essay a day after the day is done,” the book can serve in a very real way as a memorial to both of them.
Soon after her fatal accident, numerous messages were read at a public reception celebrating her life. These notes captured attributes of Marion that made her such a valued friend and colleague. Here is a sampling: “Marion was opinionated, hard headed, smart, honest, sincere, hardworking, loving, outspoken and brave.” In describing both Robert and Marion, “Each was intelligent, educated, talented, gregarious, loquacious, a gifted raconteur, and often good-naturedly argumentative.” “Marion was brisk and businesslike, but with a warmth and humor that made even the most mundane task tolerable.” “She set high standards of integrity, honesty, and fairness for herself and others. She challenged her friends and colleagues to be and do the best, and supported them in that effort.” “Marion loved words and championed their correct usage.” “She was persistent in pursuing the details of projects, yet wise in picking the tasks worthy of her time. Marion was a skilled advocate, negotiator, and strategist.” “Marion was an activist in the best sense of the word. She had a passion for getting things done that was marvelous to behold.” Marion brought a valuable perspective to organizations like the AOU, as well as to her friends and acquaintances. And as so aptly understated about Marion, “She made a difference on the positive side.”