Centennial Story 71: Robert R. Stickney (Faculty member 1985-1995; Director, September 1985 –June 1991)

I was pleased to receive an email from André Punt inviting me to say a few words about my over 10 years at the then School of Fisheries at the UW. Some of the recurring treasured memories I have from those years include the following:

  • Completing a history of the Fisheries program at the UW that began with the wife of former Dean of the College of Fisheries Richard Van Cleve (who passed away in 1984) sharing a draft history that I used as the inspiration for the book Proceeds from the book were used to support programs in the School though I’m unaware as to whether that effort of love actually raised any significant income. Hopefully, someone will update it some day.
  • Getting to know Lauren Donaldson, one of my heroes, who became a close friend.
  • Playing tennis with Bill Royce, Bud Bergner, and other retirees, all of whom were many years older than me, but wore me out with their cagey play.
  • Working with a highly talented faculty and staff, some of whom I had known previously, including Ken Chew, through my membership in the World Aquaculture
  • Society and The American Fisheries Society.
  • Participating in the writing of the undergraduate fisheries textbook used in the introductory course attended by hundreds of students each year.
  • Having the opportunity to visit the Fisheries Research Institute field stations in Alaska.
  • Participating in a dive on the Pisces IV, a Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans submarine involved in a survey of Puget Sound off Everett.
  • Developing a halibut research program in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service field laboratory.
  • A trip I took to British Columbia fishing with a benefactor who gave Ernie Brannon $50,000 for fisheries research in Lake Washington that turned into a million dollar endowment to the School. He and I had a photography contest and I got the best photo (of an eagle) and also caught the largest fish. He still increased his donation to the school mind you!
  • Conducting trout and salmon research, often in collaboration with Ron Hardy (PhD, 1978) who was at the time employed at the Montlake National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory.
  • And many more….
Ready for a dive on Pisces IV in 1967
Ready for a dive on Pisces IV in 1967

I spent about four years on the faculty after stepping down as director of the School, and in mid-1995 saw information that Texas A&M University was seeking applications for the position of director of their Sea Grant College Program. Having worked closely with Washington Sea Grant at UW and having spent nine years on the faculty at Texas A&M from 1975–1984, I thought it was an opportunity and put in my application. The offer came, and my wife Carolan and I moved back to Texas where I started my job as director of Sea Grant on January 1, 1996. I wonder how many faculty members move on and later return to the campus they left years before?

We purchased slightly less than 69 acres of land 30 miles outside of College Station and built our dream home. During the next several years I punched a few head of cattle, got ranching advice from a neighbor who let me make mistakes before telling me how to do things properly (such as constructing a corral, tearing it down due to errors in my design, and reconstructing it; giving me lessons on how to properly repair a barbed wire fence after I made a mess of my first attempt; and so forth).

Texas Sea Grant has a publication arm, extension outreach program, and—as might be expected—a grant program. The latter solicits pre-proposals every two years, has them peer reviewed, and then full proposals are solicited for final review and selection for funding. Faculty members with the appropriate expertise from any university in Texas can apply to Sea Grant for funding. About one million dollars a year are provided for marine-related research.

During my tenure with Texas Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Office (located in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) developed an evaluation program, and I had the opportunity to be on review panels for several other programs, which was an honor and a learning experience.

After promising myself to retire at the age of 70, I did so, and I was honored to became an emeritus professor in the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M in August, 2011. The department was where I held my tenure while Director of Texas Sea Grant, but other than teaching one graduate course in Fisheries Oceanography, advising a few graduate students, and serving as acting department head half time for a year, my major involvement with the department was attending faculty meetings and social activities.

In 2014, we decided to sell the “ranch” and move to College Station, where we have lived ever since. We don’t miss having to drive 30 miles to a city that provides good shopping and dining.

At the Great Wall of China in 1999
At the Great Wall of China in 1999

Our daughter and her family are located in Kirkland, and our son and his family live in Keller (north of Fort. Worth), Texas. We have four grandchildren (one in Kirkland who is a sophomore at Central Washington University) and three in Keller (one granddaughter is in Law School at Southern Methodist University, and the other is a senior at Texas A&M who has been accepted to nursing school next fall). Our grandson in Keller is autistic and his twin sister is the senior at A&M.

We try to get to Seattle at least once a year and usually spend a couple of weeks. We always drive and make a few stops on the way to see friends and former colleagues.

We also travelled extensively throughout the rest of the US and last year took our first cruise (from Seattle to Alaska). We took a trip to London in late August-early September this year and are planning to tackle the Panama Canal next.

Congratulations on the 100th anniversary of the UW fisheries program!

Bob and Carolan in London, fall of 2018
Bob and Carolan in London, fall of 2018
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