Tough of Mind, Strong in Spirit ...
Our Science Alumni Tackle Unpaved Roads
Serita D. Frey '84 - '86, PhD
Associate Professor, Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire
I am an ecosystem ecologist. My research examines how global change – climate warming, nitrogen deposition, land-use change, biodiversity loss, and invasive species – is altering ecosystem function, particularly in terms of soil nutrient cycles. With funding from the National Science Foundation, I recently started a global change experiment at Harvard Experimental Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. I am also involved in the development of the National Ecological Observatory Network, a NSF-funded continental-scale observation program monitoring ecosystem responses to global change.
My desire to be an environmental scientist began when I was a pre-med major at EMU and took an ecology class with Dr. Clair Mellinger ('64). But I wanted to take more environmental science courses than EMU offered at the time, so I transferred to UVa’s environmental sciences program for my last two years as an undergraduate. I have to admit, too, that I wanted to experience something new. I was raised on a dairy farm near Harrisonburg and had attended Eastern Mennonnite High School, so I was ready to try on new experiences.
I keep in touch with my first-year roommate, Katrina Eby Yoder ('87), the daughter of Omar Eby ('57, retired EMU English professor), and with Gloria Rhodes ('88) who teaches justice, peace and conflict studies courses at EMU. I stop by EMU regularly when I visit family and friends in Harrisonburg. My experiences at Eastern Mennonite were very positive and helped shape the direction of my life.
For more info on Frey's work, visit: unh.edu/natural-resources/fac-frey
Photo by Perry Smith, courtesy University of New Hampshire Photo Services.
Responding to an appeal in the spring '08 issue of Crossroads, more than 400 science-alumni filled out an online survey or sent us an e-mail to update us about their work. Most of the people pictured in this issue were drawn from those updates.
As in our previous issue on "alumni in business," we were somewhat limited by how far we could dispatch our photographers - brothers Jon Styer '07 and Matthew Styer '05 - to shoot fresh photos.
Occasionally we hired a distant photographer or asked alumni to send us their amateur photos from afar, in an effort to show the wide impact of EMU's alumni. (See more photos of alumni involved in research ranging from breast cancer to global warming.)
As a result, this issue contains 62 photos of 81 alumni from 18 scientific professions, working in 15 states and eight countries. For an even better grasp of what alumni are doing, however, peruse the 359 listings we compiled based on our surveys and research.
Realize, though, that the 457 science-alumni noted by name in this issue amount to no more than a quarter of the total emerging from Eastern Mennonite College/University over the last 60 years.
Those not pictured...
This magazine does not list, for instance, such servant-leaders as Richard Keeler '60, MD, who was given EMU's annual "distinguished service award" in 2004 for his 13-year commitment to the eradication of Hansen's Disease (leprosy) in Trinidad and Tobago. We just didn't receive a survey from Dr. Keeler.
We also didn't receive one from Beth Good '03, a nurse who was traveling around Africa for much of the late spring and early summer, working on programs to alleviate HIV/AIDS.
Our alumni tend to be busy folks, so we are grateful for those who took the time to respond and we understand why we missed hearing from many.
We dedicate this issue of Crossroads to those of you who are not pictured in this issue…
To physician assistants like Mary Beth Lichty '86, who "takes care of God's lost children" - those incarcerated in federal prisons.
The Landis family...
And to Konnie Landis, a '96 graduate of Temple medical school who spent her honeymoon helping people with AIDS in Uganda and building a Habitat for Humanity House, before returning to the United States to serve in rural Washington state under the National Health Service.
Konnie died of pancreatic cancer three years ago at age 36, just a year after her marriage, but she is remembered for being "a doctor who took her skills and compassion around the world," according to the Herald newspaper in Everett, Washington. (Read a 2005 Crossroads article on Konnie's life...)
Konnie wasn't the first EMU alumnus in her family. Her physician-father, R. Laverne Landis '63, began his career in rural Factoryville, Pennsylvania, where he saw patients in his home basement regardless of their ability to pay.
Her mother, E. Jean Landis, a '62 graduate with a nursing degree, helped in the practice and eventually opened a home-based day-care facility to take care of adults with Alzheimer's, brain injuries and other chronic conditions.
Mom and dad Landis also worked four years in Jamaica and another four years on an Apache reservation. They are now retired in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Konnie's brother Kenenth R. Landis '94, MDiv '04, is a Mennonite pastor in rural New York.
The pattern visible in the Landis family - multi-generations at EMU, embracing the underserved both in the U.S. and internationally - can be seen throughout this magazine.
Those who we honor...
We look at other alumni addressing the needs of the under-served in such areas as the coal-mining belt around Harlan, Kentucky, and Amish farm country in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
You'll find photos borrowed from the home albums of alumni who have served extensively in cross-cultural settings.
Two of the three alumni-award recipients have worked directly for mission or church agencies in rural or overseas settings. Read more on EMU's 2008 Alumnus of the Year Don Kraybill, recipient of the Lifetime Service Award Donald Jacobs, and the Distinguished Service Award winner Herman Bontrager.
Occasionally we note that EMU needs your financial gifts to continue serving effectively as a nurturer of such remarkable servant-leaders. And somewhere is an invitation to attend a jam-packed Homecoming celebration in October. Do both, if you can: supply ongoing support and come visit, not necessarily in that order.
If you do not find your name and profession listed anywhere
in these 56 pages - and if you are an alumnus or alumna working in, or retired from, the sciences (health, natural or technological) - please do send us your information. Just complete the online survey at: