FAREWELL, DR. SHAW
It still seems, for some reason, just a few weeks back when my roommates, Bob and Jim, and I were heading for the Teton Wilderness between our junior and senior years at USU (a mere 36 years back!) We stopped in Grand Teton National Park for a few minutes to get another map. As the wide-brimmed ranger hat at the reception desk turned to help us, we nearly fainted. Tough college dudes, thinking we were so cool, stammered as our plant taxonomy professor didn’t miss a beat under that hat. He was cool; we were clunks.
“Hi, Dick Carter,” Dr. Shaw said. “Bob, Jim, hi! What are you guys up to?” Man, he actually knew our names!
We explained to him where were going for a backpack trip up Pacific and Gravel Creeks in the Teton Wilderness. He was simply ecstatic that we were backpackers and that we had our flower keys and one flower press between us. He warned us about the high water (we almost drowned crossing Gravel Creek; each of us spent the night on three different gravel bars!) and explained that when the school year was over he was a park naturalist. Deep in the Teton Wilderness for four days, we laughed at how stupid we must have seemed.
I went on to take another taxonomy course from Dr. Shaw as well as his graduate course in plant geography.
Many years later, winding down his career at USU, we were in the middle of the Utah Wilderness Act debates. Hearings were held across the state. In Logan the big battle was over Mt. Naomi. On and on droned the opponents of wilderness, offering excuse after excuse-- the most notable being: By golly, the whole darned valley would be covered in weeds if Mt. Naomi is designated as wilderness because we couldn’ do no weed control up there!
This constituted the dagger argument to Utah’s congressional delegation and many local officials. Next up on the speaker list, though, was old Dr. Shaw. In that high pitched voice that always got your attention and with that always stern face, but somehow smiling eyes (and probably another silly joke), he pointed out the best way to prevent weed infestations was to prevent roads and no there was no better way to prevent roads on Mt. Naomi than designate it as wilderness.
THAT was the dagger argument. A year later, at least some of Mt. Naomi was designated Wilderness. By no means was it due to Dr. Shaw alone; a full decade of work had gone into protecting Naomi by Professors Tom Lyon and Jack Spence and others. But Dr. Shaw understood the meaning of wilderness and knew how to quickly and politely impart his knowledge.
The value of knowledge and education defined Dr. Shaw. He was a fine teacher, always decent and civil. He was a supporter of the old Utah Wilderness Association and the High Uintas Preservation Council, providing perpetual financial support, articles and artwork for our newsletters, and notes of hope and encouragement. In April Dr. Shaw died.