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Age of Avatars
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Scripps and Google Earth
Revenge is Sweet
Roger & Me
Digital Hair Day

Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Remembering Revelle

Donuts and milk shakes.

Through a fortunate set of circumstances when I was a Revelle College undergrad in the late 1980s, I had the opportunity to drive Roger to a conference at UCLA. 

We set out shortly after dawn, and the first stop he first directed me to was his favorite nearby donut shop. I think Roger’s wife Ellen limited his donut consumption, and Roger relished the secretive indulgence. 

During the drive Roger told me stories about recruiting well-respected educators and researchers at UCSD, and described the physical plant of the early campus, a former military outpost, and at the time remote from San Diego proper.  

Roger also shared with me his philosophy of educating young people: that they should be fluent in three languages – their own, a foreign tongue, and the international language of mathematics. 

On our return drive from the UCLA conference in the late afternoon, we were passing Camp Pendleton when Roger suggested we seek out milkshakes in Carlsbad. Stretching our legs overlooking the ocean, Roger described a unique and simple quality of beaches that I had never appreciated: they’re the interface of three key components of our world – the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere – and that makes them fascinating places. 

Roger inspired lifelong learning. And he was continually exploring new ideas and testing theses. Spending that day with him is an enduring and extraordinary experience for me, and one that I fondly remember. I’m fortunate to have known Roger and to have had him as an educator. Roger remains an inspiration to me. 

Raoul Wertz, Revelle ’88 

The Art Lover.

In 1986 I was talking to Roger at a La Jolla dinner party. Knowing that he was often in Washington at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and that I was to have a one-person exhibition of my artwork there, I asked if he might be at the NAS on the day of my opening. He told me that the night before he was to attend a NAS gala dinner, where his science television special was to be previewed. He asked had they invited me. I had to admit that they had not. He then said he was inviting me. 

At the gala, I thanked him for the invitation and hoped he might have a few minutes to see the show, which had just been installed in the rotunda and the hallways of the NAS. He assured me that he would. 

Many speeches, tributes, program viewing and dinner courses later, Roger announced to a group of dignitaries and renowned scientists standing around him that now we will see Joyce Cutler Shaw's exhibition. He signaled me to join him and asked me to tell him about the work. Beyond the honor of his attention during an evening that was so much his own, the most treasured moment was when, in studying a work, he said: "You have such an original mind." 

Most to be missed is his generosity, his appreciation of and openness toward those whose resumes could not come close to his own, and his fearless independence of mind. He took to heart his identity as an educator, which meant he would challenge and inspire us, to do as much as we could envision. 

He always seemed to have time. 

Joyce Cutler-Shaw, M.F.A. ’72  

Champion of Students 

While a research assistant and student at Scripps (’48-‘50) I took physical oceanography and special graduate courses from Roger Revelle.  He was also on my “grilling committee” when I received my Masters in Oceanography (’50). Many years later, in the late ’80s, when I’d risen to be assistant deputy director of LA County Public Works, I needed the credit of a few extra years to get a full 100 percent retirement.  I remembered my half –time research assistantship at Scripps so I wrote to the SIO and UCSD business offices asking them to send up any records they had – nothing!  I checked at UCLA (SIO was part of UCLA at that time) – nothing!  Finally I thought to write Roger Revelle care of UCSD.   

Would he remember a struggling student of his from some 40 years ago?  Indeed he did!  He remembered my work in detail and wrote the most comprehensive letter to the retirement board.  He also wrote a cover letter to me with remembrances of the old days.  He closed by saying it was really making him feel old now that his students began retiring! 

Ken Kvammen, M.S., SIO, 1950

Small is Beautiful

In 1975, I signed up for a class that Dr. Revelle was teaching on appropriate technology for the Third World. Due to his fame, the first day revealed a standing-room-only crowd. With good humor he announced that all, whether they were officially registered or not, would have to apply for a position in this class by writing a paper about themselves and their unique qualifications to take the class. He personally read all the papers and somehow I made it!

The course was a broad introduction to the concepts of applying inexpensive and low-tech solutions in the developing world. It included such progressive concepts as working within the cultural contexts and using local products. It promoted using and developing indigenous plant species for agricultural as well as industrial applications and the main textbook was titled <I>Small is Beautiful<I>. Little did I know at the time, but this concept would become central to my life. Focused on the values of simplicity and pragmatic common sense, Dr Revelle taught us that the way to the future may actually derive from honoring the things of the past. Maybe now 33 years later, those of us former students who benefited from his warm and caring tutelage, can carry his vision to see it more fully implemented in our world. Indeed, Small is Beautiful as spoken by a giant of a man.

Marjorie A. Parker, Revelle '77, M.D., M.P.H.