Graduation is an accomplishment many students look forward to throughout their college careers. However, it can also be an exciting time for professors beginning a new journey to retirement.
This semester, 11 admirable professors will be stepping away from Weber State University for good.
After years of teaching, in areas ranging from Library Science to Health Science, the departing faculty will include Joanne Lawrence, Mark Biddle, Stephen Clark, Carol Welninski, Diane Kawamura, Carla Wiggins, Louise Salmond, Jody Reese, Laura Anderson and Kathryn Payne.
One member in particular, botany professor Dr. Stephen Clark, will be leaving behind a legacy. Clark has been with Weber State’s Botany Department for 54 years — coming full circle after being in the first class to graduate from Weber State with a bachelor’s degree in 1958.
Originally studying electrical engineering, Clark eventually changed his major to something that would allow him to be outdoors.
“I thought ‘I’ll become a forester, and in this I was required to take a botany class,'” Clark said. “At the time, I truly couldn’t think of anything worse. I thought ‘Ah that must be awful. What a girly thing, studying flowers.’ To my surprise, I changed my major in this class.”
He was later hired at WSU to teach his specialty area, plant taxonomy and to curate the herbarium on campus.
Clark continued to instruct in the general education program for many years, doing significant amounts of foreign travel with regard to studying various cultures and their interaction with the land around them.
“I am a Taxonomist, but I am also an Ethnobotanist. I’ve spent over the last 30 years bouncing around five continents, interacting with witch doctors and shamans and wandering through the jungles.” Clark said.
Throughout his experiences with the San Bushmen in Botswana, the Masai, Australian Aborigines and more, Clark became inspired to introduce an Ethnobotany course to WSU.
“The Ethnobotany course allowed students to learn how weaving was done, how labor intensive something like this was, the process of collecting natural materials and essentially how all of this supports your life,” Department Chair Sue Harley said.
In addition to his renovation of life sciences curricula at WSU, Clark has also been an inspiring force for countless students in his Taxonomy, Ethnobotany, Plant Geography and Intermountain Flora classes.
“What inspires me most about Doc is that he is essentially the botanist that I want to be. He is very knowledgeable, he emphasizes on field work, and most importantly, is in tune with himself, the environment and the things around him,” Botany major Sarah McDonald said.
Despite his rich history at Weber State, Clark stated that he is looking forward to a new chapter in his life. With his new free time, he plans to continue to stay busy, create community workshops and mostly do whatever he wants to do.
The Botany Department will honor Clark with the Outstanding Alumni Award in conjunction with their award ceremony on April 18. The university commemoration for all retirees will be April 16.