Tuesday, May 16, 2006

May 16 - Double Anniversary

Actually I got married in June, but May 16 marks two important dates in my life. I graduated from college on this date in 1981. That is a bittersweet memory. A month before I had just started a new job as a technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minnesota. So I took a bus to the Twin Cities from the northern part of the state and hitchhiked to Iowa and Grinnell College for the ceremony. My brother was getting married the following week in Iowa City, so my parents drove from Colorado. Environmentalist Barry Commoner gave the graduation speech, which was politically charged. My family enjoyed it, but I recall my future sister-in-law wasn't particularly enamored. I chucked my mortarboard and tied my tassle to a red baseball cap. Casual to the end.

My Grinnell experience had its good and bad days. I never would have stayed there all four years, but my parents--fearing that I'd fall into the same path as my non-graduating brothers--put on a lot of pressure to stay. Went in planning on a double Biology-English major, but settled for Anthroplogy and distance running. Wonderful faculty in the Anthro department, but the subject was not for me. The running had some highlights, but we had a pretty rotten team. Not talent-wise, indeed we had a lot of good talent for an NCAA Division III school, it was all attitude and looking out for number 1. Remember the ME decade? I could have stayed on an extra semester as a graduate assistant coach but I had to break away from my teammates and the bitter internecine rivalries. If I had stayed, my life today probably would be completely different. Not necessarily better, but very different.

After the ceremony, my parents drove me the 600 miles back to northern Minnesota and the town of Ely, near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Although I was elated to be on my own with a real job, doing wolf research, that had great career potential I was very sad when they drove out from our remote field station the next day. It was strange because I'd never felt that way while at college. That was the last time I saw my father, William W. Sayre. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack the following October. It's ironic that I last saw him in the north country, where he'd take us for canoe trips about every other year. We had some great adventures and those experiences were a big influence on my decision to pursue a career in ecology and natural resources.

I miss you dad.

Two years ago today I arrived to Alaska as a new resident. No regrets there, and I'm looking forward to the future. Dad, you would be very proud of the boys.


Blogger P. said...


I discover your blog.
My relative is buried in your city.

is amazing because i´m from Cadiz in spain...europe

My relative go to fairbanks to find gold..his named was fran alba.

8:25 AM  
Blogger wilson said...

Interesting. I'm new here but have read a little bit of the history. Somehow Fran Alba from Spain sounds familiar. When did he live here?

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine surviving 4 years on campus at Grinnell. I loved it there and still do, but I transferred in my sophomore year and still took a semester to study off campus!

5:18 PM  
Blogger wilson said...

anon, small world.

You're right, and it wasn't easy. I did take one semester off. Two years would have been fine. Maybe perfect, but in hindsight I should have moved on after that (not that I didn't try!).

2:47 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

This is Tim and Heather back in MN for a job after leaving academia. I like what I am doing and we ran across your blog so I fired it up and found a place to add a comment. We will call you all soon. Our little girl would love to see Alaska soon.

5:30 PM  

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