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.
A memorial mass and celebration of life will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3 at St. Mary’s Church, 59 N. Main St., Cortland, N.Y. The mass will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m., followed by a reception in the Parish Hall where guests will be invited to offer reflections on Reed’s life. The family is endowing a scholarship in his name to support teacher and environmental education and welcomes contributions in his memory. An obituary is online.
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 Jamie 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 from all over the world 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.
HWS Director of Introductory Biology Laboratories Susan Cushman ’98, one of the ESSYI directors, says: “He was one of the greatest assets to ESSYI, from the way he reached out to and connected with students on so many levels, to the appreciation he showed to be part of ‘this amazing group’ as he used to always say. Ron learned as much as he taught on a daily basis and this was such an important part of his identity. He claimed he knew so little about this world and that he would never stop learning, and yet he taught us all so much more than he could ever know.”
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.
Ryan Mullaney ’16 worked closely with Reed as an ESSYI college student staff member during the summers of 2015 and 2016. “Even as I worked with Ron over long 18 hour days, time whipped by,” Mullaney says. “He demonstrated how every moment could be a chance for discovery, sincerity, love and laughter. Even hard work came to feel like play, and the ardor of everyday life melted away before the beauty of being. In that way, time with Ron was short. And precious.”
“Ron taught us to become energized and passionate, but also to slow down and appreciate the wonderful joy to be found in each other. Now, Ron has left us, but his memory and his stories, his laughter and his lessons remain.”
Prior to his death, an April 2015 article in the Cortland Standard highlighted Reed’s outlook as an educator and his passion for nature.