Centennial Story 52: Marcus Duke (Editor/Computer Geek/Musician and 30+ year Staff Veteran)

I started working at SAFS (then the School of Fisheries) in 1979, seeking more stable income than the music profession afforded me. I was hired to do word processing—transcribing hand-written publications to digital files on 5-1/4” floppy disks (huh?!?) on a big, hulking, black machine that would shut down and wipe out the data if I looked at it askance; once, it even caught on fire. That wasn’t the only hazard: one time an intense storm literally blew the window to my office right off its hinges. Less dangerous, but more noxious, were the fumes coming from the basement when the food science crew were conducting their experiments. I remained undeterred by these minor hazards, as I soon came to realize SAFS was a great place to work.

By the mid-1980s, the computer revolution had begun in earnest and my job became obsolete. But multiple times through my more than three decades at SAFS, the administration enabled me to learn new skills and take on new jobs. It even paid for continuing education classes for skills ranging from technical editing to computing systems administration to website development. I am forever grateful for SAFS giving me such opportunities so that I could remain part of such an outstanding program.

Marcus (right) and his music
Marcus (right) and his music

Reflecting on my nearly 39 years at the UW, I note several highlights:

In 1979, Fisheries was mainly focused on resource extraction. But gradually, the school’s mission expanded greatly to support the development of sustainable fisheries in the broader context of the environment and society. Inevitably, as the school program evolved, I learned so much from the students, faculty and staff at SAFS: Possibly most important, I came to appreciate how everything in and around us is interconnected. I had read about this in philosophical writings, but SAFS provided demonstrable proof of this phenomenon.

Another very satisfying shift was that of gender balance. When I started at SAFS, it was mostly a man’s club. But over the years, this changed considerably. During the 2000s, women averaged nearly two-thirds of the Master’s students, and about half of the PhD students. This especially matters to me because I watched how my mom—who raised me by herself and graduated as a salutatorian from Hunter College—struggled with pay inequity, chauvinism, and other abusive situations in the workplace. There’s still room for improvement, of course, but the school and UW have “come a long way, baby!”

On a more personal note, SAFS was my second home for more than 32 years. I made so many friends there from all over the world, many with whom I keep in touch to this day. Through the years, SAFS and the UW were always supportive of my pursuit of music. In fact, in the early years, I played at many of the holiday parties, and many SAFS denizens frequented the numerous gigs I played in the area (thank you!). (I stopped playing the parties so I could get in on the great food before the grad students ate it all—often before I finished my first set!)

Marcus Duke
I retired, moved to eastern Washington, and went to seed!

Another highlight for me was being the editor for a number of books on subjects ranging from the ecology of Pacific Northwest salmon, to riverine restoration, to the history of the school and fisheries at large—some of the most difficult work I did, but so rewarding. I gained substantive knowledge about aquatic ecology by diving deep into the subject matter for these tomes, and I got to know some giants in the field of aquatic sciences.

Thank you, SAFS, and I raise a glass for the next 100 years!


Marcus Duke

Retired but busier than ever


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