MIDDLEBURG, VA — Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned oceanographer and the 56th Alison Harrison Goodyear 1929 Fellow to speak at Foxcroft School, found her love of water and the ocean very early in life.
“I got knocked over by a wave when I was three,” she shared with Foxcroft students during her recent visit to the School’s campus. “The wave took me underwater, and at first it was a little scary, but then I realized it was fun, and I’ve been submerging ever since.” As a pioneering oceanographer, explorer, author, and conservationist with more than 7,000 hours spent underwater, that is no exaggeration.
Dubbed the “First Hero for the Planet” by Time Magazine and a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Dr. Earle is the president and chairman of Mission Blue, an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc. (DOER), chair of the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute, and the first woman to become chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She is also the subject of the Emmy Award-winning Netflix documentary “Mission Blue” and has received more than 100 national and international honors and awards.
Ever the optimist and pragmatist, Dr. Earle wove her thoughts on the current climate and what can be done throughout her presentation, including this moving observation, “Earth is a biogeochemical miracle, and what we do to the rest of life on Earth determines what will happen to us. Again, I think we’re so lucky to see it, to understand we are one little piece of this amazing fabric of life, and we’ve been doing damage to that fabric, but you can also solve the problems. We could not do it a century ago, even 50 years ago. You can. You’ve come along at a moment when the technology exists, and the knowledge exists to really shape a future where we have a future.”
She also spoke with students about her early years as a botanist and two pivotal opportunities that helped solidify her career trajectory. The first was an opportunity to spend six weeks at sea studying seaweed and fish. Ultimately realizing she would be one woman among 70 men, she said it really wasn’t a problem. “I was focused on what I was there to do as a botanist. I was there as a professional.”
The second was an opportunity to live underwater for two weeks. “They didn’t expect women to apply, but some of us did. They allowed five of us to be chosen, but they couldn’t tolerate the idea that men and women could live [together] underwater. So they made a women’s team, and that created big headlines.
“When people say ‘you can’t do that’ for whatever reason (you’re a girl, or you’re too young, or too old),” she advised students, “don’t let anybody for whatever reason steal your dreams, whatever your dreams are.”
In addition to speaking with the Foxcroft community, Dr. Earle visited the AP Biology and AP Chemistry classes and enjoyed lunch with several students interested in oceanography and ocean conservation. Later that evening, the local community was invited to campus to hear her speak.
A leader in STEM education for girls, Foxcroft recently announced an extraordinary gift for the Mars STEAM Wing to enhance its program to encourage girls to pursue studies in STEAM fields. The School offers an innovative curriculum that addresses challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce and provides relevant and stimulating learning experiences. A signature program at the school, the STEM initiative emphasizes inquiry-based labs, using technology with confidence and ease, and hands-on problem-solving that extends well beyond the classroom.
The Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellowship program, offered through the generosity of the family and friends of Alison Harrison Goodyear, Foxcroft Class of 1929, brings distinguished speakers and provocative performers to Foxcroft to deliver a keynote address and conduct small group seminars with students.
Fellowship recipients during the program’s 56-year history include such remarkable voices as Maya Angelou, James Baker III, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Sally Ride, Barbara Walters, tech entrepreneur Sheena Allen, National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Jennifer Pharr Davis, “Hello Fears” founder Michelle Poler, NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, GenHERation founder Katlyn Grasso, The Social Institute founder Laura Tierney, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, and Haitian-American director and global philanthropist Claudine Oriol.
Photos courtesy of Christine McCrehin.
Posted on: April 25, 2023