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Rock climber, physics instructor and UC Berkeley alumna Maria Cranor dies at 76

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JANUARY 30, 2023

Maria Boone Cranor, co-founder of Black Diamond Equipment, UC Berkeley alumna and former instructor in the physics department at The University of Utah died from cancer at age 76 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 15, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Cranor, who grew up in the Bay Area, studied at UC Berkeley during the height of the Free Speech Movement in the sixties, according to her first husband Carl Cranor. The marches and rallies inspired and cemented her longstanding interest in progressive politics, according to Berkeleyside.

“She was a superb student, (taking a) seminar with a renowned professor (during) her time,” Carl Cranor said, though “she didn’t always show up to class on time.”

Later, Cranor pursued a career in rock climbing, according to the University of Utah website.

Cranor’s interest in climbing would prove to be a lifelong passion, in which she found work in the mid-eighties at Great Pacific Ironworks, a climbing gear retailer, as reported by Berkeleyside. Cranor went on to serve as the Director of Marketing, a position she had created for herself, only one year after her initial hiring.

“(She was) one of the very best face climbers in the world when she was active,” Carl Cranor said.

When the wholesale company Chouinard Equipment went bankrupt in 1989, Cranor, alongside former colleagues, picked up the pieces of the former company. Cranor helped transform the assets into Black Diamond Equipment, where she served in creative leadership for several years, as reported by Berkeleyside.

After her accomplishments in the business world and in her rock climbing career, Cranor continued to further her education; at age 50, Cranor enrolled in the University of Utah as an undergraduate, studying physics, according to the university website.

“Adding to this legend was the fact that she’d already lived an exotic life as a rock climber and equipment executive,” said Rob Owen, a University of Utah alum who met Cranor as an undergraduate, in an email.

Cranor proved a diligent student in physics, according to Owen.

Cranor went on to graduate school for physics at the University of Utah, eventually becoming an instructor in the subject, according to the university’s website.

“This was not at all easy for someone who hadn’t taken a math class in decades,” Owen said in an email. “She had to work hard, harder than any of the rest of us, to find the simple elegance of the physical world, so she seemed to treasure that knowledge all the more.”

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JANUARY 30, 2023