Campus & Community

Orlov Rubinow, former Harvard University Press editor, dies at 81

3 min read

Betty Ann Orlov Rubinow, 81, formerly of Cambridge, Mass., and Stowe, Vt., died unexpectedly from complications of pneumonia on Jan. 5 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tucson, Ariz., where she had lived with her husband, Merrill Rubinow.

Born Dec. 23, 1925, the daughter of Meyer and Beverly Orlov, her early years were spent in Brookline, Mass. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College and did graduate work at Harvard University. Her career in editing began at the Harvard University Press, where she eventually became the editor for the behavioral sciences.

Rubinow possessed an indomitable spirit as well as an intellectual curiosity that fueled her interest in a broad range of people, subjects, and causes. A staunch advocate for civil rights, she was one of the founders of the Boston Chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Her home became a meeting place for those involved in welfare and education reform.

After she left the Harvard Press, Rubinow created Langdon Press, publishing books on her own. She also worked as a freelance writer and consultant. In 1974, she conceived the idea of an encyclopedia of American ethnic groups. After connecting with the History Department at Harvard and obtaining funding from the Office of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation, she became the managing editor. The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups was published in 1980 by Harvard University Press and was presented to President Carter in the White House.

In the 1980s, Rubinow moved to Stowe, Vt. She pursued biblical studies at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vt., the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and the Jesuit Faculty of Theology at Regis College in Toronto, from which she received her M.Div. in 1996. In 1996, she went to St. George’s College in Jerusalem to pursue Jewish Studies.

Rubinow tells the story of the last chapter in her life when she reconnected with a person from her past: “We met originally in July 1943 in a Boston hospital. That September he went to war, I entered Bryn Mawr, and we exchanged V-mail letters almost daily for the next two years. In May 1946, Dr. [Merrill] Rubinow was finally discharged from the Army Medical Corps, eager to get married and get on with his life. Ten years younger, and a college junior, I was not ready for that commitment. Sadly, we went our separate ways and never exchanged a word for 56 years. Then, miraculously, after the death of his first wife, he located me through a relative, and in June 2002, we met at his 65th Harvard Class Reunion. Reconnecting instantly and ‘surprised by joy,’ we were married two months later and blessed with four wonderful years in Tuscon.”

Donations may be made to the Friends of St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological College, the TMC Cancer Institute, Tucson, Ariz., or St. John’s-in-the-Mountains, Stowe.

A memorial service will be held in Stowe at St. John’s-in-the-Mountains, which is planned on being held on May 5. Also, in accord with the wishes of friends and extended family, plans are being made for a memorial service in Tucson.