A dedicated environmental educator and retired science teacher, Ron Reed, who passed away on Sept. 22, had been an integral part of the Hobart and William Smith Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute (ESSYI), most recently serving as program director.
With a deep passion for the environment, Reed believed in providing students the opportunity to interact with nature as a means to foster lifelong learning. Through ESSYI, a two-week, college-level environmental studies program for high achieving high school students, Reed influenced and inspired many with his multidisciplinary approach to environmental education and stewardship.
“ESSYI is a life-changing program for the vast majority of our students,” says Professor of Education Jim MaKinster, who worked with Reed, a retired biology and environmental science teacher from Cortland Junior-Senior High School. “Ron was perfectly suited to guide our staff and students on that journey.”
Under Reed’s leadership, ESSYI students were able to investigate a range of environmental issues and perspectives ahead of their undergraduate experiences. Founded in 1993, ESSYI hosts about 30-35 students each year. During the program, they gain hands-on laboratory and field experiences exploring Seneca Lake on the Colleges’ William Scandling research vessel, examining streams and bogs, and taking an excursion in the Adirondacks.
In addition to the work he did with ESSYI, Reed was involved with MaKinster’s teacher professional development projects for 12 years. Last fall, he also instructed MaKinster’s “Teaching Elementary Science” seminar in New Zealand.
“Ron had a way of just making people feel good about themselves and their potential to do good in the world. This was most evident in the way he worked with our staff and students,” MaKinster says. “To me, he saw every person and every interaction as an opportunity for him to learn something new. And he felt compelled to help young people, especially, recognize what they had to offer to the world.”
Prior to his death in April 2015, an article in the Cortland Standard highlighted Reed’s outlook as an educator and his passion for nature.