John Seidel Named Inaugural Emeritus Director


The Board of Visitors and Governors establishes new emeritus status to honor the significant work of center directors 

John Seidel speaking at a podium

The Board of Visitors and Governors formally conferred the title of emeritus director to retiring director of the Center for Environment and Society (CES) John Seidel at its December meeting. The designation was brought about by the extraordinary contributions Seidel has made to Washington College in leading CES since assuming the leadership role in 2006. Under his direction, CES has grown to become a nationally recognized center for research, education, and field opportunities in the Chesapeake Bay estuary.

“When the Center for Environment and Society was established, the goal was to create a Center that distinguished the College,” said President Mike Sosulski. “What John has done during his time as director is not only elevate the reputation of Washington College but provide innumerable opportunities for students and faculty to engage with the environment in meaningful ways and deepen the institution’s commitment to sustainability. It is a truly remarkable record of accomplishment and highly deserving of this unique honor.”

Seidel’s work on behalf of the College will have a long-lasting effect on the institution and the Eastern Shore. CES programs have evolved to include the four-course Chesapeake Semester—an interdisciplinary, experiential study of Chesapeake Bay—the Watershed Innovation Lab which studies in detail the Chester River, the Geographic Information Systems Lab and the Past is Present Archaeology Lab. Among the resources that Seidel helped to shepherd are the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, the College’s first Living Building Challenge facility, two fully equipped research vessels, and the 5,000-acre River & Field Campus which includes the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory.

“The Center would not be the force it is today without the tireless work of John Seidel,” said outgoing CES Advisory Board Chair Clinton Daly. “John has been an excellent partner to the Advisory Board. He has provided a vision that has made CES a premier environmental center in the country. Under his leadership, the Center’s endowment has grown to nearly $25 million, philanthropic support of CES continues to grow and, perhaps most importantly, he has secured a substantial portfolio of grants that support a broad range of faculty and student work.” Incoming chair of the CES Advisory Board, Ann Horner, also shared her enthusiasm for the future of CES. “John has left a wonderful environmental legacy at the Center that will position his successor for great success. For me, his impact is beyond superlatives and there is no one more deserving of the emeritus director status than John.”

The Center for Environment and Society has also become a focal point for Washington College students to engage in field research, internships, or to work within the Center, providing valuable high impact opportunities that prepare graduates to jump directly into environmental careers or to excel in top graduate programs. CES typically has between 40 and 100 interns and student employees each semester.

Emeritus status confers privileges including ongoing affiliation with Washington College at professional meetings and in scholarly publications, use of campus facilities, and continued involvement in campus staff activities. The emeritus director honorific is available to directors of the College’s centers of excellence who have demonstrated exceptional service to the College for 10 or more years.

“One of the great honors we have as a Board is to grant emeritus status to individuals who have had a profound impact on Washington College and the students who have passed through our campus,” said Board of Visitors and Governors Chair Stephen T. Golding ’72 P’05. “John’s incredible contributions as director of CES made the establishment of the emeritus director status essential and the naming of John as the inaugural choice a foregone conclusion.”