Kate Van Name ’91
“The first novel I remember reading ferociously as a child growing up in New York and New Jersey was The Lord’s Oysters by Gilbert Byron, who was born in Chestertown and was a Washington College graduate. My grandfather had an original copy in his Jersey shore bungalow, which he coveted. A year before he died, he gifted me the book and said that I was the only person in the family who would be drawn into the story, make it part of my soul, and understand the allure of the southern waterways. And so began my love for stories and songs of the Chesapeake Bay estuaries, wetlands, and ports.
“[Years later as] a freshman at WC, I moved into Caroline Hall in the mid-morning, and by suppertime, my new friends and I were walking down to the Chester River. I thought, there it is. This is the river I read about when I was little. There are the boats, birds, people, and water. This is now where I live and belong. This is home.
“Many evenings, I would walk down to the river to watch the same chugging work boats Byron wrote about, settle in after tracking a soaring heron, listen to bugs hum and frogs croak, and write poetry, song lyrics, and short stories in the waterfront pavilion. My grandfather’s words and tremendous gift, a simple novel about life on this majestic river, dug deep into my being and led me directly to where I was always supposed to be; to the river I loved in black and white and experienced in full color.”