Larry Philip Atkinson
1941 - 2020
{ "" }
Share Larry's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Dr. Larry Philip Atkinson, Eminent Scholar Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at Old Dominion University, died December 22nd, 2020. He was 79.

Larry was the only child of Lola and Don Atkinson, and was born in Ames, Iowa in 1941. After a short stint in Iowa, the family settled in Bellingham, Washington, and Larry's life of adventure truly began. Those childhood experiences in Bellingham, from Sea Scout, to commercial salmon fisherman, to being a member of the ski patrol on Mt. Baker, provided him with a lifetime of stories, and a foundation for what was to come. He began college at Western Washington University, afterwards transferring to the University of Washington, where he received his Bachelors and Master's Degrees in Chemical Oceanography in 1964 and 1967, respectively; but most importantly during this time he met his wife Ann. In the midst of school, Larry and Ann married in Puyallup, Washington in 1966, and began a life of adventure that would span the globe, drawing a great many friends, family, and colleagues into their sphere. Moving across the country after graduation, from Washington to Beaufort, NC, Larry worked as a Research Associate at Duke Marine Lab from 1966-1968. In 1969, Larry was accepted into Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and received his Ph. D. in Oceanography in 1972. After graduation, they headed south to Savannah, Georgia.

From 1972-1985 he held various positions at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, GA, and during that time expanded his family with two sons, Berg in 1977 and Sten in 1983, both named after the Norwegian heritage of his wife Ann. In 1985, he accepted a position at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and soon after, his vision and leadership helped to create the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at Old Dominion University. During his time at Old Dominion, between 1985 and 2019, he held many positions at the University, among them Director for the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Chair of the Department of Oceanography, and as the Samuel and Fay Slover Professor of Oceanography. Throughout his career, he served on panels and committees at the local, university, state, and national levels, and spent many years travelling the world, spending time at sea researching the oceans which he loved. His research topics included studies of nutrient supplies, hydrographic variability in eastern and western boundary currents, sea level rise, climatology of coastal waters, and high-frequency radar measurements of surface currents. His love of Oceanographic research led him to do field studies off the US East Coast, Japan, Chile, southern California, and northwest Spain.

But maybe his most important contribution to Oceanography, and the superpower which he will be most remembered for, was his amazing ability to bring together people from all over the world for common goals and purposes, which he did his entire career. To the very end, he tried to mentor, tutor, and bring together the next generation of Oceanographers. In 2020, in recognition of his contributions, and his ability to bring people together from across the globe, the National Science Foundation Ocean Observatories Facility Board established the Larry P. Atkinson Travel Fellowship for Students and Early Career Scientists, to enable students and scientists from across the globe to continue to come together, and advance human knowledge and the understanding of our Oceans for years to come.

Some of Larry's favorite hobbies included astronomy, photography, gardening, skiing, fishing, travelling with immediate and extended family, family vacations on the Outer Banks, video chatting with family, and getting people together.

Survivors include his wife, Ann H. Atkinson wife of 54 years; his oldest son, Berg, his wife Maggie, and his beloved grandchildren Astrid and Clara, and his youngest son Sten, and his wife Allison. Surviving extended family in the Pacific Northwest include a sister in law and brother in law, and 4 nieces and a nephew, to whom he was always known as "Funs up, Larr!". In Norway, special relatives Liv and Audun Tjomsland and Hans and Wigdis Narverud who were great traveling companions for 50 years. He also leaves behind his lifelong friendships with his BHS classmates of ‘59 who added to his quality of life until the end. He will be sorely missed not only by his family, but all those that knew him, personally and professionally.

The family will have no service at his request, and will scatter his ashes in the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean, so that he may forever be a part of the oceans he so loved. In his memory be kind to each other, bring people together, and cherish your friendships.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Virginian-Pilot on Dec. 27, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by the family
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
17 entries
January 26, 2021
I have fond memories of Larry as a fellow graduate student at Dalhousie and interactions in the years after at national and international meetings. I especially remember an auto trip that Larry and Ann made with me from Halifax to New York City, partially through a blizzard. Larry will be much missed.
Jonathan Sharp
January 13, 2021
When I think about Larry, I picture him cheerfully smiling and chatting. I am very grateful for his encouragement to get involved with The Oceanography Society. It ended up being one of my favorite activities as a grad student. I also recall his joy in reminiscing about his past, once he learned I was headed for UW and Seattle for a postdoc. He was always a lovely person to talk to and his presence will be missed.
Stefanie Mack
January 5, 2021
It's with great sadness that I learned of Larry's passing and condolences to Ann, the boys and their families. With much love, Beth, Joe and Maria Cajiao
Beth Cajiao
January 4, 2021
R. C. Kidd
January 3, 2021
I'd line to offer my sincere condolences to the Atkinson family. I first met Larry when we were setting up the HF radar network for ODU in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Of course, I knew of him already primarily because of our shared scientific interest in the Gulf Stream. I always love running into Larry at various conferences thereafter. He was a kind soul and will certainly be missed.
Mike Muglia
December 30, 2020
What a beautiful and fitting memorial to Dr. Atkinson. I had the privilege of collaborating in a small way on several projects/initiatives with him during his tenure at ODU and can attest to his vision, leadership and unassuming manner. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at ODU and raised the stature of ODU in the field of oceanography to a national, if not international level. I can also attest to his amazing ability to bring people together for common goals and purposes.

He spoke glowingly of his two sons and his grandchildren. To say he will be missed is an understatement. My heartfelt condolences to the family and all those who loved him.
Barry Bishop
December 29, 2020
I had the pleasure of working with Larry on many projects at Nauticus through the years. I am grateful for that experience. My condolences to the family.
Christine Arrasate
December 29, 2020
It is with personal sadness that I read the obituary of Dr Atkinson. He was a great friend and supporter of the Hampton Roads Section of the Marine Technology Society for many years. I enjoyed talking with him many times while I was a student at CCPO and enjoyed a trip with him and Ann on a garden tour in the UK several years ago. He will be missed by all who knew him.
James Haluska
December 28, 2020
Dear Ann I would like to express my condolences at the passing of Larry. I will always be grateful and treasure the moments and opportunities he opened for us Latin American students. The oceanography community will surely miss a great colleague, friend and mentor.
My thoughts are with you
Andrea Piñones
December 28, 2020
Larry helped me greatly during my last career stop, as the environmental reporter for The Virginian-Pilot. He was one of those people with whom I started when tackling some wrinkle in the story of sea level rise and tidal flooding. He was always gracious and patient, and I appreciated his willingness to help educate me. His vast knowledge of the physical ocean environment was impressive. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Dave Mayfield
December 27, 2020
Dear Ann, I'm so sorry to hear of Larry's passing. Thinking of you and your family. All my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Mike Zabel
December 27, 2020
I offer my sincere condolences to Ann Atkinson and the entire Atkinson family at the passing of Doctor Larry Atkinson. Best wishes always.
Larry Hollowell
December 27, 2020
So sorry to hear about the passing of Larry. Our deepest condolences. Grete & Ernie Sutton.
Grete Sutton
December 24, 2020
I first met Larry as a graduate student at North Carolina State University while he was at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. He was one of the most influential people in my early career. It's been my good fortune to have known him and to have had him as a friend. Many of my most memorable experiences as an oceanographer were shared with Larry. I will miss him.
Chuck McClain
December 24, 2020
I met Larry in 1991 when he was on the committee that hired me at ODU. He was warm and welcoming and he and Ann were very gracious in introducing us to Norfolk. Although Larry and I engaged in many mutual projects together I will remember him most as Friend. Rest In Peace, Larry the world is a better place from your participation in it.
John and Dorothy Eck
December 23, 2020
A great champion of science and scientists. More importantly, a great and caring human being.
Kate Bosley
December 22, 2020
Larry and I lived together for two years at UW. Great memories, great friend. He will be missed.
Dick Zuanich
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences