The courtyard outside UW-La Crosse’s Centennial Hall is a reminder of former Biology Professor Daniel Sutherland.
The ornamental grasses and pools collecting rainwater are reminiscent of the wetlands where he worked.
“I told my daughter — it even smells how he would like,” says Becky Lasee, Sutherland’s wife.
Sutherland died unexpectedly in May 2006 at age 54. But those he impacted through his leadership, mentorship and inspiration now have a place to remember and honor him. UW-L faculty spearheaded a campaign to raise $75,000 to sponsor and name the courtyard Daniel R. Sutherland Memorial Courtyard. The goal was met with help from current and former faculty and staff; students; employees at U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and others.
“This is going to be a place where people can gather outside and enjoy nature in the middle of campus,” says Peg Maher, UW-L professor of biology.
Sutherland would have liked that idea. He was often out in nature, spending days at the La Crosse River Marsh studying deformities in frogs. He’d lead students on forays to the marsh to help them understand water ecosystems. He was a tough professor, but an effective one. Maher describes him as “a great, big Grizzly Adams kind of guy, but also a very deep and contemplative thinker.”
To demonstrate complex concepts, Sutherland wasn’t afraid to use props. He’d bring road kill into classes to help students dig into parasitology.
“When you walked down the hall, you smelled the road kill he would bring in,” recalls Maher. “He was very hands-on and interactive with the students and gave them a fabulous opportunity to learn.”
And the students appreciated it. “He was one of those magnet professors,” says Roger Haro, UW-L biology professor. “He had a student following that was really extraordinary.”
He was also a mentor to colleagues. “There wasn’t a day that Dan and I didn’t talk and he didn’t guide me in some way,” says Haro. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Dan Sutherland.”
Daughter Alyssa Sutherland feels the same way. She’ll start classes at UW-L this fall. But it was Dad who first introduced her to the UW-L campus as a child. She’d sit in his classroom, drawing with markers on the white board while he worked.
Returning to campus makes her feel more connected to him. Seeing the courtyard helps her see how he connected to so many.
“It’s been a long time since I knew him. It’s exciting to see all the people who loved him,” she says. “It makes you feel good — it’s hard to explain.”
Courtyard fundraising continues