Looking Good at 50 Years Old!

The Bodega Marine Laboratory celebrated its 50th Anniversary with two very successful events over the course of two days. September 16th and 17th had been reserved a year in advance to give the BML Anniversary Committee time to locate over 10,000 former alumni, faculty, staff and researchers who were associated with the lab from its very beginning.

Interest soon swelled from a wide range of people that were connected to the lab. A BML50.com website was established to coordinate the fervor of people seeking to reserve their spot, seek additional information and leave word on the impact that BML had on their lives. Former students, faculty, staff and researchers traveled from all parts of the world to attend the celebration that truly honored their contributions for making BML what it is today.

BML 50 Chancellor's Event

The events of the first day were hosted by the Chancellor’s Office which served to open up the lab for UC dignitaries across both the Davis and Berkeley campuses, high-level donors, and local, state and federal government officials. The lab was transformed into an open house of visual experiences – open labs and classrooms staffed with current students and faculty, outdoor tours of the natural reserve, a new exhibit space with two walls displaying multiple high-resolution, enlarged photographs providing the early history of the lab from its founding, photos of the breadth of research, education and outreach, and a colorful display portraying the vitality of the Bodega Marine Reserve. Guests were given time to explore on their own or interact with staff for a more detailed experience.

A formal program began with a very touching video of the history of the lab and how the lab has influenced so many people over the last 50 years.

The video was followed by Gary Cherr, Director of the Bodega Marine Lab who welcomed everyone to the event. It was Gary’s honor to open the ceremonies by acknowledging the contributions of 50 years of dedicated talent. Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute Founding Director Rick Grosberg and Acting Provost Ken Burtis remarked on the importance of UC Davis’ commitment to marine science moving forward. U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson and State Assemblymember Jim Wood were on hand to present to the lab a Congressional Record and State Resolution recognizing the 50 years of research and education that has improved the lives of so many California citizens.

The program ended with Assemblymember Wood reading a few words from Governor Jerry Brown, who was unable to attend the event, but provided a State Proclamation for the ceremony.

“Today, the University of California’s Bodega Marine Laboratory is celebrating fifty years as one of the premier institutions for research and education in coastal and marine sciences. The Laboratory has educated thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of disciplines. For its outstanding contributions to research, education and environmental protection, the Bodega Marine Laboratory deserves our heartfelt commendation.  Now, therefore, I, Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim September 16, 2016 as ‘Coastal and Marines Sciences Day.’”

BML 50Pictured: L-R Harris Lewin, Assemblymember Jim Wood, Gary Cherr, US Congressman Mike Thompson, Rick Grosberg and Ken Burtis.

Saturday’s Alumni Reunion event welcomed hundreds of former students, staff, and donors since the 1960s. They were hosted by over 100 resident BML faculty, graduate students, and staff representing current research in an open lab format. Each decade of alumni was represented by brightly colored name tags, so that alumni could find classmates or enjoy camaraderie across generations. Seven speakers representing different decades spoke on how BML influenced their lives. Additional oral histories from over twenty individuals were recorded for posterity. The repeating theme was how their BML experience was inspiring and challenging in a close-knit family setting, and where young aspirants were transformed into budding and accomplished scientists.

Matt Whalen, current BML graduate student, summed up the reunion best by saying The 50th anniversary celebration was an invigorating and reaffirming coalescence of BML’s past and present. It was a huge family reunion, and seeing the march through time all the way from BML’s foundation to the most recent cohort of summer students gives me confidence that the Lab will remain an exemplar of marine science research and training for a very long time.”

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments of the event – and echoing Matt’s thoughts – was the presentation of a plaque to Vice Chancellor Harris Lewin who will be stepping down as VC of Research on September 30th. The plaque praised Harris for his dedicated support, steadfast direction and personal commitment to secure the future of Marine Sciences at UC Davis. The plaque ended with a quote befitting not only a VC that enjoys good music, but sums up the long 50 year journey of the lab: “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me; other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me…what a long, strange trip it’s been.”