Alumni Award of Excellence for 2002
Internationally recognized biologist and educator Edmund D. “Butch” Brodie, Jr., Ph.D., received Western Oregon University’s 2002 Alumni Award of Excellence.
“From his humble beginnings as an undergraduate education and biology student – and star Wolves football player – to his prestigious international standing as an educator and researcher today, Dr. Brodie brings honor not only to himself but to all of his experiences along the way, including WOU,” said award nominator Lowell Spring.
Created in 1984, the award is the highest honor that Western Oregon University bestows upon an alumnus. The Alumni Association grants the award to those alumni who serve as shining examples of the quality of the university’s preparation for the post-graduate world.
Brodie graduated from Western Oregon University in 1963 with a bachelor of science in secondary education and a minor in biology. He followed with both a master’s degree (1967) and a doctoral degree (1969) in zoology and minor in plant ecology from Oregon State University. Since then, he has gone on to distinguish himself in the field of biology through his research, teaching and other academic endeavors and is now a professor and the Biology Department head at Utah State University.
Brodie has garnered more than $1 million in federal, state and private support for his research, which he has conducted on five continents and which focuses on the evolution of defense mechanisms employed by amphibians and reptiles to avoid dangerous predators. His most recent research has been recognized as breakthrough in the field. His work has been cited in textbooks and included in several documentaries by BBC and NOVA.
“In the sciences, undergraduate research is the ultimate and most important aspect to teaching students,” he said. “I have come to recognize and appreciate more now than as a student the individual attention and mentoring students received [at OCE] and the importance of this experience.”
Understanding science by doing, Brodie believes, is as critical as a student teaching experience for an education major. As an undergraduate in Monmouth, he discovered that understanding through one professor in particular, Kenneth Walker, and credits him with his success as a scientist. “Walker took a fairly decent offensive tackle and average student and somehow brought him to be able to think and wonder about nature,” Brodie said.
His experiences and quality student-mentor relationship with Walker proved to be an invaluable gift for Brodie, who is continuing that kind of bonding with his own students. He remembers specifically a discussion with one of his former undergraduate students after that student had earned his doctorate. “As he was recounting all of the attitudes and respect for science he had gained from me, it was like a flashback because he was describing things I remembered from doing undergraduate research with Doc Walker.”
As Brodie looked back on his educational and professional career, he reflected on how his collected experiences have impacted his life and the wisdom acquired in the journey. “The important aspect is not the knowledge gained. It is the understanding and respect for the scientific method and the thrill of discovery.”
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