ELA’s 22nd Conference & Eco-Marketplace celebrated a successful move to UMass Amherst last week. The first floor of the Student Union offered a lively venue with attendees mingling with students and faculty who visited exhibitors or purchased books from the ELA Store.
Wednesday’s social hour before the keynote dinner provided an opportunity for lively engagement among session presenters, exhibitors, and attendees. Tradd Cotter’s Keynote address detailed some of his work developing fungi for mycoremediation in a variety of situations from petroleum spills to toxic waste cleanup.
Wednesday night’s Keynote Dinner is always a Conference highlight, but this year’s pre-dinner announcements caught ELA’s Executive Director Penny Lewis by surprise. The ELA Board of Directors honored Penny for her 10 years of energetic and creative service to ELA. In her ten years with ELA, Penny helped expand ELA’s educational palette to include eco-tours and webinars, autumn’s Season’s End Summit and January’s Symposium, plus a new Pennsylvania Symposium in 2015. Additionally, ELA has embarked on a number of collaborative projects with like-minded organizations across the country.
Trevor Smith ELA President and Theresa Sprague, Vice-president, made the presentation. Theresa acknowledged that Penny “has been the driving force behind the development of our education mission, spearheading the expansion of programming that includes our extremely successful eco-tours and webinars. Her willingness and ability to collaborate with numerous like minded organizations has truly transformed our group from an association, to an Alliance.”
Board members contributed individually toward her gift: a sculpture by Thomas Berger, stone sculptor and landscape designer based in Kittery, ME. Botanic Shape: Spore of a Fern features a naturally formed sphere of pink granite carved with a double helix to resemble a fern spore mounted on a gray granite post. The pink granite “spore” was on display at the registration desk on the second day of the conference. Theresa commented that the Board hopes that Penny will enjoy the sculpture in her garden for years to come and “always know how very much [she] means to us.”