July 13, 2017

Michael Kemp’s Retirement Party

On May 20th, 2017, two former students of Michael Kemp, Jeremy Testa and Cassie Gurbisz, surprised him with a retirement party. For the venue, they chose the the pavilion at Horn Point Laboratory, which is part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. His son Cullen Murray-Kemp and daughter-in-law Marissa Joiner drove up from Charleston, South Carolina to surprise him. Other attendees included former students Karin Limburg from upstate New York, Jane Caffrey and Chris Madden from Florida, and Ken Moore from Virginia. On this blustery, sunny day, Michael’s wife Laura Murray and brother Matthew Kemp brought him to the pavilion without arousing his suspicion.

Marissa Joiner, Laura Murray, Michael Kemp and Cullen Murray-Kemp. Photo credit: Bill Dennison

Both former students and colleagues paid homage to Kemp’s career. John Petersen from Oberlin College and Renee Gruber from the University of Western Australia provided thoughtful video testimonials. Cassie Gurbisz collected photos from other attendees and created a photo album that both predated and spanned Michael’s 39 year career at Horn Point Laboratory. Jens Borum, a Danish colleague, wrote a funny note. Former student Chung-Chi Chen from Taiwan was the most hyperbolic in his appreciation of Kemp: he called him Confucius.

Telling stories about Michael. Photo credit: Bill Dennison

Perhaps the Michael’s most important achievement, however, involved his long-time collaboration with Walter Boynton, who attended Michael’s retirement party with his wife Mary Ellen and daughters Sarah and Jessica. He and Michael shared the Lifetime Achievement Odum Award. Presented to them by the Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation in 2009, this award reflected their joint outstanding and prolonged contributions to estuarine science. Walter and Michael both had been students of H.T. Odum, the scientist who founded the award, making its presentation to them even more meaningful.

John Peterson showing his photo video to Michael Kemp. Photo credit: Bill Dennison

Jeremy Testa and Karin Limberg at the retirement party. Photo credit: Bill Dennison

Michael and Walter provided years of applied research to management agencies such as the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. However, they did not just jointly work on estuarine science: they also collaborated on on the study of collaboration. Their seminal paper on synthetic science (Kemp and Boynton, 2012) stimulated a session at the UMCES faculty convocation. In many ways, as Tom Malone, former Horn Point Laboratory Director, observed at the retirement party, the Michael and Walter partnership served as a model for UMCES science, leading to the current focus on the scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching.

Group photo from the Kemp retirement party on the banks of the Choptank River. Photo credit: Bill Dennison

Michael’s great achievements aside, one of the things that made this gathering so special was the affection that all of us have for him. We love him for how he helped elucidate our most comprehensive ideas through his Socratic method of questioning. His thoughtfulness and generosity also endeared him to his students; he reveled in their successes and commiserated with them in their setbacks.

I am very glad that Jeremy and Cassie celebrated Michael’s career in such a fun and personal way.

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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Filed under: Applying Science,Learning Science — Tags: , , — Bill Dennison @ 1:00 pm

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