He was born in Natchez, Miss., Jan. 24, 1926. After graduating from Natchez High School in 1943, he served in the U.S. Army from 1944-1946 and again from 1949-1952. Between deployments, he attended Mississippi State, then Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), where he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism. He received a master's degree in history from U.C. Berkeley.
After two years at Truckee High School he taught at Cubberley High School from 1957 to 1962, then served as an advanced-programs consultant to the Palo Alto Unified School District 1962-64, and was instrumental in designing the progressive humanities curriculum for the English and Social Studies programs at Gunn High School. He taught at Gunn from the school's opening in 1964 until his retirement in 1988, serving in his last two years at Gunn as a mentor to other teachers as well.
During his nearly 30 years of teaching, he received numerous awards, grants, fellowships and other recognition. He was an active contributor to numerous professional associations, holding various leadership positions in local, state and national teachers' organizations.
His areas of special interest were composition; American and British literature; Greek mythology, drama, and literature; and film studies. He was much-beloved by his students, not the least for his dry wit, friends recalled. He would sign yearbooks with a rubber stamp. The message changed several times over the years, but the one most remembered by former students read "To my Favorite Student, Sincerely, Frank Ratliff." He spent many of his summers enriching his professional knowledge and experience, including two summers as principal at the AIFS Royal Academy of Music in London.
He had a life-long interest in theater and film, and was an enthusiastic supporter of dramatic productions at Gunn. He also wrote screenplays. He was a member of the American Film Institute, past president of the California Arts Society, and a longtime subscriber to the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the San Francisco Early Music Society.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. at Unity Church, 3391 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
Memorial donations may be made to the Frank E. Ratliff Fellowship Fund for doctoral students in classics at U.C. Berkeley, c/o Gift Administration, 2080 Addison St., #4200, Berkeley, CA 94720.
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