SARASOTA — The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a Forever stamp honoring marine biologist Eugenie Clark at 11 a.m. Wednesday in a public ceremony at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota.
The unveiling will take place on what would have been the 100th birthday of the woman who earned the nickname “Shark Lady”. Clark died of lung cancer in 2015 at the age of 92.
She was the founding scientist of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory and was behind its transition to Mote.
Related:The Mote founder’s fascination with fish is still strong
The U.S. Postal Service chooses between 25 and 30 commemorative stamps a year, from a set of 30,000 suggestions made to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.
A Postal Service spokesperson said the selection process can take up to three years.
The committee selects topics of broad national interest that may also be educational.
Earlier: Eugenie Clark is gone but her legacy is not likely to die
Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, said the institution did not name Clark and was not aware of Clark’s choice until he was approached by the postal service to host the event.
“I don’t know how the US Postal Service made these decisions, but we’re glad they did,” Crosby said. “Mote is the house that Genie built.
“Genie has been a big part of building and providing a foundation on which everything we’ve done has been built on,” he added. “I always say that there are three pillars on which Mote grew in 67 years – and those are three pillars that the Genie started, and that was passion, partnership and philanthropy.”
‘Lady with a spear’
Clark’s first book, “Lady with a Spear”, published in 1953, was a bestseller that caught the attention of William and Alfred Vanderbilt, who owned land in Placida and invited Clark to Englewood to give a talk on Marine biology.
More than 100 people heard her speak, and before she left, the Vanderbilts asked her to run a lab on a plot of their land.
The Vanderbilt-backed Cape Haze Marine Laboratory opened in 1955.
One of the first tasks she had with local fisherman Beryl Chadwick was sourcing fresh shark liver for a researcher at the New England Institute for Medical Research.
After that, Clark took up shark research, and the Vanderbilts built a shark enclosure at the facility.
In 1960, after the Vanderbilts left the area and Clark’s husband got a job at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory moved to Midnight Pass on Siesta Key.
Tampa native William Mote invested in the lab, which became Mote Marine Laboratory in 1967.
Clark left Mote to become a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Maryland.
She retired from Maryland in 1992 and in 1999 moved back to Sarasota with her fifth husband and became a regular at Mote – who moved to her current home on City Island in 1978.
She was still studying fish in 2015 when she passed away.
Three years later, a species of shark bears his name – Squalus clarkae – also known as Genie’s Dogfish.
Related: Sarasota ‘Shark Lady’ honored with her own kind
“Her passion for the science that she did, the oceans, that continues to run through all of our veins,” Crosby said. “And the partnerships she had in the very beginning with community volunteers who helped her and the philanthropic support that started with the Vanderbilts who really started that first lab in Cape Haze and of course Mr. Mote who, years later – thank goodness he and Genie met and he was able to take over that facility and really give an incredible push forward.
“That’s who we are today, it’s all built on what Genie started.”
Sharing a connection with the oceans
Wednesday’s ceremony is open to the public, though attendees are asked to RSVP at usps.com/eugenieclark.
Featured speakers and guests include Angela Curtis, vice president of delivery operations, US Postal Service; Crosby; Jennie Janssen, president and co-founder of Minorities in Aquarium and Zoo Science; Aya Konstantinou, Clark’s daughter; and Eli Weiss, Clark’s grandson.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota.
Crosby said his friend and colleague would likely take the Forever stamp honor in stride.
“She’d have that signature smile on her face and she’d appreciate all the fuss, but she’d probably also want to just go back to her office and write some more manuscript or get in the water and be underwater and do research,” Crosby said.
“She really enjoyed sharing with people her love of science and the connection we have with the ocean, so I think she would probably see this as another opportunity to celebrate all things Mote, as well as to celebrate the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of science and the importance of our connection to the oceans.
Information from the Herald-Tribune archives was used in this story.
Earle Kimel primarily covers southern Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.