Rath-Marr shares Grether Woods stories in new book
Academics - posted on 12/6/2005
If there is anyone qualified to write a book about Lakeland College's beautiful Grether Woods, it is Kathy Rath-Marr.
A 1976 Lakeland graduate and a member of Lakeland's faculty just a year shy of two decades, Marr literally grew up at Lakeland under the watchful eye of her father, David Rath, who for years ran Lakeland's chemistry department.
"Into the (Grether) Woods" is a new book by Marr about the large wooded area in the back of Lakeland's Sheboygan County campus, a natural laboratory, named for D. Frank Grether, a Lakeland faculty member for decades during the turn of the 20th Century. His son, Frank Grether, a retired biology teacher, set in motion a family donation for refurbishment of the D. Frank Grether Natural Laboratory.
"Into the (Grether) Woods" can be purchased for $10 directly from Marr by contacting her at 920-565-1266 or email@example.com
. It is also available at Lakeland's Campus Shop and Maywood Environmental Park. Books can be purchased through the mail for $15 (shipping included) by sending a check to Kathy Marr, Lakeland College, P.O. Box 359, Sheboygan, WI, 53082.
The book is a wonderful collection of memories and tales - tall and otherwise - about the Grether Woods from alumni, Lakeland employees and friends of the college.
"In the years of my growing up, I spent a great deal of time in my Dad's office and 'hanging' out around the campus," said Marr. "In those days, the Chase Center did not exist and what was there was a barn and a rudimentary farm space. The Woods were always a place to explore and as I grew up, I spent more and more time there."
After short teaching stints at UW-Sheboygan, UW-Manitowoc, Marquette and Divine Word College in Iowa, Marr returned to her alma mater to teach, thanks to a call from one of her mentors, longtime biology professor Allen Wangemann.
The Cedar Grove resident and Sheboygan North High School graduate has been heavily involved with all matters environmental, including serving all sorts of roles at Sheboygan's Maywood Environmental Park. She has a master's in physiology and a doctorate in education with a specialization in biology curriculum and instruction both from Marquette University.
The author of several published research reports, Marr is the member of a number of national organizations dedicated to science and the environment. She is the 1999 winner of the Underkofler Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Marr has always taught Lakeland's ecology course and utilized the Woods. That course later expanded into a course called comparative forestry. Out of her love for the Woods and in particular its birds, Marr developed an ornithology course that she teaches every other year.
Marr has always been motivated by the management and upkeep of the Woods. Any proceeds for the sale of this book will go to the Grether Fund, which helps maintain the Woods.
"Though I can take little credit for the physical labors often associated with the Woods, I will admit that I have always had Grether's welfare first and foremost in my mind, and sometimes that involved a few uphill struggles," Marr said. "In the end, I have had a great deal of support of which I am deeply thankful."
The following is an excerpt from "Into the (Grether) Woods," re-printed with Marr's permission. It's from a section of the book entitled "Sermon Circles and the Secrets of Narnia."
"There is a circle of stones and tree trunks on the far West side of the Grether Woods. It sits with a view of what is left of the Sheboygan River since the dams came down a few years ago. Historically, few people are aware of the origins of this circle. Originally it was a small circle hollowed out amongst the trees. A few large glacial boulders were lifted into place in the early days of the Mission House Seminary. Seminarians in those days had to write sermons just as they do today in Seminaries. It is said that the circle of stones was commonly referred to as Sermon Circle as it was used often to practice preach. Just who sat on those stones as the Reverend-Yet to be Known ran his pontifications is unclear. Perhaps it was a fellow student, perhaps a girlfriend, perhaps the wise professor who assigned the task. Since it is a fair hike to that peaceful opening, it is more likely that the sermons practiced were directed at the chipmunks and birds. More as not likely, it was the spirits of ancestral listeners who already knew the secrets of the wood. We will never know, but it is fun to speculate.
"In the post-Mission House Days, the circle of stones expanded to include felled tree trunks sawed into stumps of chair height. (A common practice in the 1960's was the making of trunk stools and plaques from felled Grether trees. The Fraternity insignias and motto were often burned into the tops. My Dad had a Zeta Chi stump in his office for as long as I can remember. Sadly, it was given away after his passing by an unknowing soul who never experienced the meaning of the receiving of said stool). The stumps are of fair size, so it must have been a hearty bunch of gentlemen who cut and moved them. In the early days of the circle expansion, the fraternities began using it for meetings and pledging rituals. This practice continues today. It is not exactly clear who or how possession is taken on any given night of stump use, but then, there may be some unspoken agreement somewhere in the depths of Greek Societies on campus.
Most recently, the stump-stone circle has become commonly known as the "Party Pit".
Homecoming, post-football celebrations, and other such times of the year are the most popular time to party. Evidence of a bonfire and remnants of a great deal of beer drinking is usually the only evidence left behind. To date, no accidents or serious repercussions have ever been related to the parties at the pit. Perhaps it is the lingering sermons and spirits of those early Seminarians that protect and watch over the partiers."
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