Outstanding Auburn students


During my tenure as a teacher and researcher at Auburn University I had the privilege of directing 12 graduate students to completion of their MS or Ph.D. degrees. All have had successful careers, and many are now enjoying retirement. My first graduate student was Ron Estridge, who conducted some of the early research on the flattened musk turtle, a species now on the threatened list that occurs only in streams of the Upper Black Warrior River System. Ron is now retired, lives in Auburn, and is  leader in the effort to protect Saugahatchee Creek.
Ralph Jordan Jr. was my “right-hand-man” from when the time he enrolled at Auburn until he received his MS degree. After graduating, Ralph was employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority  (TVA), and ultimately assumed the responsibility for managing the natural resources on all of TVA’s public lands. He was active in the Auburn Alumni Association, including serving as its president. For his research, he studied the life history and ecology of the Red Hills salamander. His research along with that conducted by Terry Schwaner, another of my students, led to the listing of the salamander as a threatened species, which was later designated as “Alabama’s Official Amphibian.” Ralph was named “Distinguished Alumnus of 2014,” by Auburn’s College of Science and Mathematics.
Others among my graduate students have served as deans, department heads, and university professors. One worthy of mention is James Godwin. He is a superb naturalist, and is thoroughly familiar with Alabama’s plants, animals, and ecological associations. James currently is employed as a biologist with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, headquartered in Auburn.
An outstanding student with which I had no contact when I was a teacher is Arthur “Joe” Jenkins. He enrolled long after I retired. Joe is now  senior and is scheduled to graduate with a double major, one in zoology and the other in mechanical engineering. It was announced in the May 8 edition of the “Opelika-Auburn News” that Joe has been awarded a 2015 Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholarship for Excellence in National Environmental Policy. He is one of only 48 Udall Scholarship recipients in the country and the only recipient in Alabama. In the newspaper Joe was pictured holding an eastern indigo snake.
Joe is currently conducting research on the threatened flattened musk turtle and the poorly -known black warrior waterdog, a large aquatic salamander, in Bankhead National Forest. His research is being directed by James Godwin and Dr. Craig Guyer, Auburn’s “official herpetologist.”
In addition to his being unique as the sole recipient of a Udall Scholarship in Alabama, Joe is almost unique in another respect. He is the only person, besides me, having an affiliation with Auburn University who frequently attends meetings of the Order of Geezers, a group of elderly men who meet week-day afternoons at Hardee’s on Marvyn Parkway in Opelika. One might tend to wonder why I am the only retired A.U. professor who ever attends Geezer meetings. To my knowledge, no other one ever has. But then, as nearly as I can determine, many professors don’t even devote a few minutes each day to read a newspaper, so I am not surprised.
So why, one might ask, would an undergraduate A.U. undergraduate student be interested in what some elderly geezers talk about? I can only assume that Joe seeks to broaden his horizons relating to politics and current events.
Based on what I have learned about Joe thus far, I wouldn’t hesitate to bet my bottom dollar that he will succeed in making it to the top of whatever pinnacle he chooses to climb. Congratulations, Joe.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.


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