Friday – April 18, 2014

 

George Stone Enlists Students in Fight to Save the Planet

May 2009

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Force of Nature

When Natural Science Instructor George Stone expounds on nature and preserving the earth's resources, his voice and presence overflow with such passion that he becomes a force of nature himself. He is on a mission to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with every student and colleague he meets.

"His dedication to and knowledge of energy and the science surrounding energy is almost overwhelming," says Mark Trask, retired associate vice president for information technology and a student in one of Stone's classes. Former student Jeremy Johnson describes Stone's teaching style as "enthusiastic and very forceful."

Unlike many students, Trask takes courses for his own edification. Most of Stone's students are fulfilling science requirements for their associate degree programs. Stone realizes that, but seizes the chance to reach all students about the importance of understanding earth sciences, climate change and energy.

"If you know a lot about a lot of things, you will never be bored.
Education is enriching in ways that reach beyond the paycheck."

Once in a Lifetime

"It may be the only time in their lives that they will be exposed to this kind of knowledge," he says. "I want to make it interesting and exciting enough so that they'll remember. I love my subject matter, and I have the joy, the pleasure and the challenge of imparting knowledge and stimulating genuine interest in the students. In most cases, I think I'm successful in doing that.

"The majority of MATC students have a curiosity and a desire to learn. They find learning really stimulating and enjoyable. They're not studying just because it will lead to a better
job, a larger paycheck, and it makes economic sense. They like learning for its own sake. The more you know, the richer life is, and the more you appreciate it."

The self-described "nature freak" earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Miami and a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His first teaching job was in the School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a tenured associate professor and director of graduate studies. The National Science Foundation awarded him a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge. He later was a visiting investigator at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.

 

Bit by "Seagull"

What could possibly lure him away from the security of tenure and a prestigious career at a top-rated geology school?

Richard Bach's best-selling Jonathan Livingston Seagull was the catalyst. During summers, Stone worked on a project for the U.S. Geological Survey on the Snake River Plain in Idaho, living in a government trailer and reading books every evening. "I finished reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and I thought, 'This wouldn't be so hard to do.' So I decided to try to write a book."

He wrote a few chapters of a book called A Legend of Wolf Song, and a friend helped him land a contract with a publisher. Wolf Song was about free expression in the form of a howling wolf - a combination of natural history and political fable, according to Stone.

but administrators refused because Stone's project was not in geology and he had already spent time away at Cambridge and the Carnegie Institution. So, he quit to write Blizzard.

Blizzard plunged into science fiction with a cautionary tale about a weather warfare experiment gone horribly awry. "I had always loved snow and started to wonder what would happen if it never stopped snowing," Stone says of his inspiration. This second novel did better commercially than the first. Combined, the two were published in 20 editions in 11 countries. Stone did three national book tours and landed a contract to write four more books.

Back to "Real Job"
During this time, he met Eileen Marotte, now his wife. Stone relocated to Eileen's home town of Milwaukee. When his third book proved something of a struggle, she suggested he get "a real job again," he says with a chuckle. He made a deal with Eileen that if she would return to college, so would he. He taught part-time in the University of Wisconsin System and part-time at MATC, where Eileen was already enrolled.

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Natural Science Instructor George Stone has led a fascinating life that included a stint as a science fiction novelist.

When offered a full-time position at MATC eight years ago, Stone grabbed the opportunity. Since then he has developed several new courses, including "Climate Change Fundamentals" and an online class called "Weather Fundamentals." He and colleague Rahim Setoodeh also developed a course called "Energy in Nature, Technology and Society," aimed at giving students a basic understanding of energy and how it affects the planet, the economy and their careers.

Riding the Wind

Stone has led the charge in many ambitious energy initiatives at MATC, including co-chairing the annual Wisconsin Renewable Energy Summit, which drew 2,500 people this March. With help from others, he wrote and won grant proposals to support the purchase of photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine to collect sun and wind energy for the Mequon Campus. He is involved with renewable energy initiatives at the Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Oak Creek Campus and is co-chair of MATC's Sustainability Committee.

Stone has attended, organized and presented sessions at several national and international conferences on climate change. In August 2008, he participated in two seven-day excursions in Iceland and Norway, where he viewed first hand the accelerating meltdown of icecaps and outlet glaciers.

He also has organized and presented workshops and coordinated speaker visits at MATC. "I want to raise awareness and infuse it throughout the curriculum district-wide," he says. "My greatest reward in teaching about renewable energies is getting students interested. Then they can take over the fight to save the planet."

For more information on MATC's Liberal Arts and Sciences associate degree, see:

http://matc.edu/student/offerings/liberalaas.cfm