In 1957, my parents enrolled me at Berkshire School in Massachusetts. At my 50th class reunion my classmates enjoyed giving me a rough time about how I reacted when I first saw snow. I played ice hockey and ran track—two sports I would continue at Grinnell College in Iowa. The sprint medley I anchored and the indoor and outdoor mile relays set records that have yet to be broken. I received the Dave Theophilus Trophy as outstanding senior athlete.
In my sophomore year I decided to major in biology rather than economics, and my grades quickly improved. During my junior year, I was chosen to participate in a new Midwest Conference Colleges program in Costa Rica. My introduction to the ecology of tropical rainforests made me decide to get a Ph.D. in Ecology and then return to do research in the Neotropics. In 1966, I married Kam Munson, whom I met in Costa Rica, and our son Gary was born during my second spring in graduate school at Washington State University.
I was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship for an introductory biology class. I loved teaching, and my evaluations were so good the Biology Department hired me as a part-time instructor (never done before for a graduate student) while finishing up my thesis on Plant Succession in Sand Dunes on the Hanford Atomic Reservation. These experiences convinced me that I was meant to be a teacher and not a researcher.
In the fall of 1970, I began teaching Plant Biology at California State University: one of the best decisions I ever made.
In the early days, the university allowed me to lead overnight field trips to the ocean and the Sierra Nevada. The students always asked me what the birds were, but I didn’t know. So in 1975, I attended a bird identification class at American River College taught by Bruce Swinehart. Bruce was an incredible teacher, and he showed me that birding could easily take over my need for some type of competitive activity since I had just quit the local ice hockey league.
While I never lost my enthusiasm for teaching, my new hobby took me on a very different path. I got involved in the Sacramento Audubon Society, even serving as its president.
Thirty-five years ago, I led my first tour for VENT in Manitoba and continued leading tours during summer and Christmas vacations. Most of those tours were co-led with my son Gary, who later became Chief Scientist for the National Audubon Society for eight years and is now Executive Director for the American Association of Geographers. Gary, Sarah, and Phoebe, my 13-year-old granddaughter, live near Washington, D.C.
In July 1990, I married Laurie Klaisle, a Registered Nurse for Sutter Health. Our son, Kevin, graduated from the University of Redlands and received a Master’s Degree from the Bren School of Environmental Studies and Management. He currently works for AgMonitor, a startup company, and lives in Burlingame, California with his girlfriend, Felicia.
Laurie is also a birder, and we have been fortunate to be able to take Kevin with us on birding adventures to Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, and Australia.
After retiring in 2008, I began to lead full-time for VENT, and it has allowed me to meet an incredible number of wonderful people. When not working on tours, I tend my 51 nest boxes in the American River Parkway, participate in 3–5 Christmas Bird Counts, continue to run four Breeding Bird Surveys (the first one since 1978), work in the yard and Genesa garden, and bird locally with many friends.