Spotlight on Steve Sulkin


Whatever Happened to Steve Sulkin?

In his own words.. I was pleased to see this type of communication among Class of 1962 alums.  I really have not connected with classmates since leaving town for college in the Fall of '62. This was not purposeful; just a result of circumstance. Although I did visit my parents who remained in Winston-Salem until they passed away, such visits were short and filled with family obligations.  I began thinking more about those long-ago classmate connections upon my retirement in 2013 when I began writing a series of vignettes about my life, in a (hopefully) humorous vein. The series has been compiled in a self-published book, entitled "Life and Times of a Left-Handed Tweener" (Kindle Direct Publishing/Amazon).  There are two chapters that relate to my time at Reynolds High, one entirely about that experience ("High School Daze") and another more generally about my approach to music, including thoughts about my time in the marching band and, believe it or not, during my freshman year as a member of the Rebops. (I am sure it is a coincidence that the year I participated was the only one in memory for which the Rebops chose not to present a public concert for the school.)  These experiences also convinced me to abandon any hopes of becoming a musician.  In any event, this exercise made me think about how to connect with the Class of '62 classmates and this venue seemed like a good way to do so.

After graduation, I went off to college at Miami University in Ohio where I received my Bachelor's degree in Zoology.  This was not pre-ordained by any means.  Although I knew I wanted to be a college professor, the exact topic was not clear.  I initially declared as a history major; however, in its wisdom, Miami insisted that I take a course in introductory biology in my freshman year.  It was offered on television - in 1962! We sat in a large lecture hall and watched the little man talk biology on small screens (black and white, of course).  It did have a two-hour lab; my section was on Saturday morning. Clearly, there was nothing about the course that could possibly influence students to embark on a career in biology.  And yet, it did in my case.  I was fascinated by all aspects of it.  And I remember thinking, if I become a marine biologist, I can live at the beach!  As it happens, that turned out to be true!

After receiving my degree in 1966, I pursued my doctorate in Marine Biology at Duke. I spent most of my time during the academic year on the main campus in Durham, but relocated to the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort every summer.  It was there that I met Shelley who was an undergraduate at William & Mary and had accompanied a faculty member to assist him in his research while she was on a National Science Foundation Traineeship.  We were married in June, 1970.  We celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary in June of 2020.  (I know. Those of you who remember me from high school are probably wondering how I could attract the interest of a smart, beautiful woman, let alone convince her to marry me.)

My first real job was an a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory located in tiny Solomons, MD.  My main job was supposed to be to predict the catch each year of blue crabs, an almost impossible task and one that very few people paid attention to anyway.  However, I was able to conduct research on more suitable topics and got a good start on my career as a research scientist.  It was while we lived in Solomons that our twin daughters, Kim and Tracy, were born. Twins (Gulp)! They are now in their mid-forties (!); Kim inserts general knowledge into the brains of third graders and Tracy has a doctorate in political science and currently is a dean of the Media College at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Kim has a son (16) and a daughter (12); Tracy has recently adopted a little boy from Ethiopia and another from South Africa.  An interesting collection of grandchildren.

After six years in Solomons, I moved over to the Eastern Shore to Cambridge, MD to serve as Director of a new Maryland marine lab, the Horn Point Lab.  My appointment as Lab Director resulted from a set of fortuitous circumstances: the new lab required a director and the appointment had to come from an existing faculty member.  As the overall campus head reviewed the possibilities, he remembered me from a presentation I had made.  It was not the presentation that impressed him; rather the fact that I was not out playing volleyball at lunch with the other staff.  He apparently was scandalized by the staff going a few minutes past lunchtime.  He said to a colleague that my absence from that group must indicate that I was "aloof" and would therefore make a good leader.  What the campus head did not know was that the reason I was not out with the other miscreants playing volleyball was that months earlier I had badly injured my back - while playing volleyball with the other miscreants.  On such a thin reed was my 34 year career as a marine lab director initiated.

We stayed in Cambridge for nine years, during which time our son Matt was born.  He just turned 40 and is a program director for the consulting firm Accenture.  In 1982, we had come out to the University of Washington's marine lab while on Sabbatical. It was our first visit to the Pacific Northwest and we were enthralled.  When a position as a lab director for Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center became available, I applied and was appointed.  We made the big move across country to Bellingham, WA in 1985.  I served as director of the marine center for 28 years until my retirement in 2013.  I was fortunate to enjoy a career that took me to direct  marine labs on both Chesapeake Bay and the Puget Sound region.  Hard to beat if you're a marine biologist.

Retirement took a little getting used to.  At first I felt guilty about not working; then, after  while, I felt guilty about no longer feeling guilty about not working.  But, I've gotten over that too.  I spend most of my time now writing, landscape painting, building scale models and travelling to the Midwest to visit our kids and grandchildren.

As I think back to my time at Reynolds High, several things stand out: football games, the marching band, Latin with Miss McDermott, American Lit with Miss Kapp, and English Lit with Miss Stevenson.  I still even remember some of the vast volumes of literature that she made us commit to memory.  Well, not as much of it as I used to.  I also remember her admonition to us that if we ever used a run-on sentence in a college essay, we would be summarily flunked out of that college.  And we believed her!  (At least I did).

I think that the most valuable and lasting thing that Reynolds High did for me was to instill in me the reality that, in my case, learning required self-discipline. It made me develop good study habits, not to mention the capacity to memorize facts!  These traits served me well during my college and graduate school days.  I am grateful for the experience.

I regret not being able to attend the various events and reunions, but a 6000 mile round trip pretty much precludes that.  I do enjoy, however, reading the aftermath descriptions on this website. 

I look forward to reading about other members of the Class of '62!

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy in these challenging times. Good luck to us all!