Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Loss of a Hero

As much as I'm trying to crank out posts this month, this is one I absolutely do not want to write.

It's ironic that just the other day I mentioned the forestry short course at Itasca State Park that was a required part of a forestry degree at the University of Minnesota for generations of budding foresters.

Part of what made that 3 week stint at Itasca one of the truly formative parts of my education was a gentleman - and I mean gentleman in every sense of the word and its component parts - named Harold "Scotty" Scholten.

Scotty taught - an important distinction - botany and plant identification every morning.  Soft spoken and humble but with a wry sense of humor, what I remember most is having to jog to keep up with Scotty as his l-o-n-g legs propelled him with easy grace.  Keep in mind that this was 1987 and Scotty was a WWII vet. 

The other thing I remember is that he outfished all of us.

Scotty was one of several of an "even aged stand" of forestry school professors who were educated under the G.I. Bill after WWII.  What distinguished this group was their complete dedication to TEACHING, which stood in stark contrast to many of the younger professors who would replace them, brilliant & highly talented people whose primary interest was research and for whom classroom teaching seemed an inconvenience.

The woods were Scotty's classroom; after spending one hour in the woods with Scotty you never, ever looked at the forest the same way again, in the same way that learning to read opens up new worlds of literature.

I know you can see how this story ends.  Scotty Scholten passed away on November 22.  The obituary says:  "Professor Scotty introduced the love of Forestry to his students at the University of Minnesota and Itasca State Park."

That is, without question, the biggest understatement I have ever read... which makes it a fitting tribute to a humble, but truly remarkable man.

No comments:

Post a Comment