While I was out running at 5 a.m. the other morning, I was thrilled to see the sky beginning to lighten on the horizon. Getting up and out the door at that hour is pretty brutal any time of year, but it’s particularly discouraging during the darkest, dampest months. So that faint glow offered a wonderful promise of lengthening days throughout April and into the summer.
We’re starting to see a similar horizon in our school, and it comes on the heels of an extended ‘winter’ of retirements. Each quarter, it seems, we’ve had to say goodbye to another round of great friends and colleagues, including some of our longest-tenured professors—from Dave Manuwal, Tom Hinckley and Bob Edmonds to Steve West, then David Ford and Kevin Hodgson, and now Frank Greulich, Bruce Bare and Gordon Bradley.
These farewells have been sad and profound, and it’s hard to quantify just how much their absence will affect our community. The personality of a school or university, after all, is never static. It’s always shifting and evolving with the people who work here, and you can never exactly replace the experience—let alone the institutional memory and character—of one faculty member with another.
Yet these departures have also signaled a period of opportunity and new beginnings for the school. We’ve already added three new professors this year, and I’m excited to welcome their energy and ideas. Professor David Butman is a watershed biogeochemist who has joined us from Yale University as a joint appointment with Civil and Environmental Engineering. David studies carbon and nitrogen flux in whole watershed studies, and he provides our programs with an increasingly important perspective in freshwater ecosystems. Professor Patrick Tobin is our new disturbance ecologist who joined us from the U.S. Forest Service in Morgantown, W.Va. Patrick is an entomologist and forest health specialist who primarily focuses on large-scale insect infestations of forest ecosystems, and his work has broad applications for forest management. Through some internal shuffling, we were then able to hire Professor Peter Kahn in a half-time capacity. Peter is an eco-psychologist who works on evaluating the human relationship with nature, and he holds a joint appointment with the Department of Psychology.
As our new faculty members have gotten settled, we have also hosted several additional searches this winter and spring. We have now hired—or are in the process of hiring—three more professors, with the possibility of a fourth coming soon. On April 1, Dr. Bernard Bormann took over as the new director of our Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, Wash. Bernard joins us after 34 years with the Forest Service, and his research focuses on forest ecology and physiology. Dr. Anthony Dichiara is a chemical engineer who comes to us from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Anthony will join our bioresource science and engineering group this fall, providing new expertise in bioproducts. By then, we’ll also be welcoming at least one new quantitative wildlife ecologist, and it now looks like we’ll be able to hire two.
These faculty members bring a wealth of new strengths and capacities. They’ll greatly enhance our ability to address the complexities of land management, and the potential for new and dynamic products both here and abroad. And they give me hope for what we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming years—in the lab and in the classroom, and in all of the environments around us.
So while it would be easy to dwell on all we’re losing, I’ll also hold onto the feeling of that sunrise, and the promise of new beginnings.
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences