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Campus News

Mel Seifert: A 74-Year-Old Ivy League Alumnus, Retired Biology Professor, and Now Full-Time Warren Wilson Landscaping Volunteer

by Jake Fraser, staff writer

“We could not get by without everything that Mel does,” The Warren Wilson Landscaping Crew homepage reads.

Mel Seifert, who volunteers every day with the crew, received an undergraduate degree at Iowa State college, followed by a master’s degree in Fishery from Cornell University; Mel continued his academic ventures for nearly 29 years, teaching everything from Marine biology to Organic Chemistry and eventually headed all the sciences at Sheldon Jackson College, in Sitka Alaska.

“I taught 25 different courses, most with ‘ology’ at the end.” Seifert said.

Contrastingly, Seifert now works as a full-time volunteer on the landscaping crew at Warren Wilson.

Seifert is responsible for much of Wilson’s beautification, accomplishing a host of needed tasks on campus. Five days a week, at 7:15 a.m., half an hour before the crew finds their way to the Landscaping shed, Seifert arrives. He starts the coffee, and puts out a bucket of ice for the rest of the crew, all before starting his voluntary and unpaid 8-hour shift.

“It might seem trivial,” Seifert said.

But, the satisfaction or sense of accomplishment gained from sweeping an area free of garbage and leaves, or plowing a field and looking back at the big black fluffy furrows of dirt, once grey and flat, can somehow be greater than teaching—especially as an administrative faculty member, he explained.

Despite his different roles at Sheldon Jackson and Warren Wilson, both colleges do share a great number of similarities: both are located in a temperate rainforest, both were founded by Presbyterian churches, both started as an all boys school, then developed into high schools, then junior colleges until they eventually became four-year universities.

The science program at Sheldon Jackson had salt-water pumps circulating salt water from the pacific throughout tanks on campus. After working at a research facility developing techniques for mass fish production, Seifert proved prosperous at Sheldon-Jackson.

“I had a fishy Thumb, I seemed to know what I was doing,” Seifert said.

He received the “Best Teacher Award” four times in Alaska.

74 year old Seifert, now retired, lives off of old school farm road number two, with his wife Jane, humbly spending his time bustling around quietly, making our campus beautiful.


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