Most members of NCPCA have heard of Bob, since he’s our long-time membership chair, handling all our renewals and sending out directories. Here’s a chance to get to know him a bit better — and with great photos!
Bob hails from Dayton, Ohio, where he grew up and attended the University of Dayton, majoring in physics. In 1971 the US EPA had just been created, and there were lots of jobs in environmental protection, but not in physics…. so he got a job with Ohio EPA and worked in air pollution monitoring. When he decided to go grad school, he came to UNC’s Environmental Sciences program for his MS degree, and then in 1976 he started at Research Triangle Institute in air pollution research. He worked hard until 1989 but he knew he was headed for burnout; he’d turned 40, he was working long hours, and there’s lots of pressure in contract research. A friend who had been a PCV in Thailand in the 70’s told wonderful stories about hanging out with whores in Bangkok. So the wildest & craziest thing to do seemed to be to join Peace Corps. He was able to take a leave of absence from his job, pack up his belongings, and deliver his cat to his mother in Ohio. He can recommend this strategy for others facing burnout.
By November 1989 he was in Botswana, where he was a science teacher at Kgatadimo Community Junior Secondary School, one of 12 faculty members. The school offered 2 grades of study and had approximately 240 students.
The government had built a new school, but had rejected the order of new science equipment from an overseas supplier. So he had to improvise and be very creative–corned beef tins and sticks!— until the approved equipment came in later in the year.
The students came from 4 surrounding villages, and the school was located between 2 of those villages– 2 that were squabbling.
The school provided some teacher housing, so he had a gas stove, a flush toilet, and a water heater– pretty plush by local standards, and out of the village squabbles. He taught in English, so his Setswana was not very good; he just learned basic greetings.
In his spare time, Bob took lots of photos of people at their request. For the cost of film, they were delighted to have their portraits made in nice clothes or with family. Every 3 weeks he’d would hitchhike to the nearest big town to get groceries, borrow science equipment, and send film to be developed in South Africa.
After traveling to Lesotho and Zimbabwe, Bob came back to the US and to his former job for 12 more years, and then moved to EPA in 2003. He now describes his job:
I make the science behind EPA regulations bullet-proof. Research plans come to me for review and, if approved, the scientists can do their research. I check their methodology which mostly concerns engineering work to control air pollution and the economic models to find the most economical approach.
Fun fact about Bob: he and his wife are feeding one dog and 12 cats– some indoor, some feral. He can herd cats! No wonder he’s great as our membership coordinator!
Here are a few more photos from Botswana: