About 20 Hobart and William Smith alumni and alumnae took advantage of the cool lake breeze this morning during an excursion on the William Scandling
, the Colleges’ research vessel.
“This is a great way to start a reunion that is a milestone for us,” said Carroll ‘C.J.’ VerSteeg ‘58, a former Statesman football and baseball player. “I’m looking forward to the dinner tonight at President Gearan’s house, so I can catch up with classmates."
VerSteeg was joined by his wife Carol Stoldt VerSteeg ’58, a former class president and member of the Centerbury Club. “I’m excited to connect with my old roommates from the Hill and Houghton House,” she said. “We had our own little world here.”
The VerSteegs traveled from Georgia to take in the scenery and to learn how today’s students use Seneca Lake for research. Their guide was Associate Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtin, who led alums in mini-experiments that typically occur on the vessel.
Curtin instructed alums on how to use a sediment sampler to extract mud from the bottom of the lake and study the various mussels inhabiting the water. She pointed out the native snails in the sediment, as well as the numerous zebra and quagga mussels. “Fish size and snail populations are decreasing,” said Curtin. “The effect is great because of Seneca Lake’s alkalinity.”
Alums learned not only about the drawbacks of an increased mussel population, but the benefits as well. “The lake is cleaner because the mussels “soak up” much of the pollutants,” explained Curtain.
“I remember that Seneca Lake was polluted when I was here,” said Arlene Haich Agar ’63. “If you were sensible, you didn’t swim in the lake.” Agar, who is celebrating her 45th reunion, majored in English and minored in studio art at William Smith. After graduation, she opened an art gallery in Rhode Island and today is a painter living in Florida. She, along with others, was pleasantly surprised to hear about the importance – both in a practical and in an aesthetic sense – of Seneca Lake in college life today.
Curtin answered many questions and was happy to report that Environmental Studies is now one of the Colleges’ most popular majors.
“We didn’t even have an environmental studies program while I was a student,” said Agar.
Two more excursions on the William Scandling
were planned for later in the day on Friday.