Professor Manley, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Science

I should preface this story by telling y’all that I would much rather cozy up with a book–or Netflix’s Luke Cage, which premiered this week–than go outside, or worse still, go do science outside.

My first morning of classes at Middlebury, I was dragged to Intro to Oceanography by a senior friend of mine, an environmental science major, who swore that this class would convert me into a science major. I walked into a classroom swollen to the brim with students eager to get in. I hadn’t registered for the class or to be on the waiting list, so I was on the bottom of a very long totem pole.

The professor, Tom Manley, who I’ll get to in a minute, took roll, pulled one or two people off of the waitlist, and told everyone else that unfortunately, due to the nature of the lab in this class (3 hours of boating on Lake Champlain each week) there was a hard cap to the number of students he could take. After the first lecture, I went up to Professor Manley, introduced myself and told him that I wanted to be added to the waitlist. He was confused, considering he thought he had already clarified that there wasn’t a waitlist anymore, but wrote my name down on the sheet and told me–as nicely as possible–to find a different class.

So I went to the lecture on Wednesday. I went up to him after class and asked if anyone had dropped. No one had. But, he had remembered my name!

So I went to the lecture on Friday. I went up to him after class and asked if anyone had dropped. No one had. But, the van for the Friday lab group was leaving in around ten minutes, so I stuck around, talked with some friends, and snuck into the van headed for Lake Champlain. When we tumbled out of the van and onto the docks, Professor Manley realized that he had a stowaway.

Professor Manley is a muscular man with a chiseled jaw, perfectly windswept grey hair, and jean shorts. All 365 days of the year, Professor Manley rocks jean shorts.  Now that is odd, yes, but even odder is that he is an arctic researcher. He spends much of his free time in the freezing cold, studying water and ice floats and the ground under the water–if it is unclear, I am not a science major–in a parka and jean shorts.

The only thing standing between me and the boat was Professor Manley in his shorts. Slowly, a smile crept across his face. He extended his hand and asked me if I was sure I was ready for a life at sea.  He bumped the cap, let me on the boat, and I spent the next three months dropping robots into the lake and taking core samples.

Even though I am not a science major at Middlebury, and made that very clear to Professor Manley from the start, he created room for me to learn. I think that’s a testament to the teaching ethos at Midd. If you are excited to learn, then professors here are excited to work with you.

A couple of hours after the course’s final exam, Professor Manley invited everybody over to his house to eat some strawberry shortcake and ride his ATVs.  It’s safe to say that my short life as a scientist certainly ended on a high note.

August Rosenthal ’17

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