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Rebecca Phillips ’76, ’81 DVM

Michelle Gordon riding horse Mac
Fall 2018

Back in the saddles

Winding through barren April wheat fields, my 4Runner rumbles down a gravel backroad heading toward the small farming town of Colton. Rounding the corner, I spot a sign for the Pat Weber ranch and follow their lane to the barn.

Near the corral, a young woman in a riding helmet turns and waves. Michelle Gordon, Washington State University junior and president of the recently revived WSU Equestrian Team, is here along with several other students for lessons with English riding coach Laura Bagby Moore ’08.

“I’ve known Laura most of my life,” says Gordon as she brushes a bay gelding named Mac. “We’re both … » More …

Peony
Fall 2018

Peonies from heaven

Come late summer, Alaska’s farmland blooms with romance and colorful ruffles. It’s the season for peonies in the north country—an unlikely floral industry that, thanks to bridal demand, has given rise to a surprising horticultural gold rush.

The lure is especially tempting for those with small parcels of land. Wayne ’76 and Patti ’75 Floyd, for example, joined the stampede in 2011 with only two acres, and have since created a successful business claiming both national and international markets.

 

“We’d had this farm bug in our hearts from the beginning but we were never in a place that we could do that,” says Patti. … » More …

Breaking pumpkin thumb - Getty Images
Fall 2018

The physics of fall

With murmurs and pointing, the crowd watches as a face and then hands—holding a large object—appear in the twelfth-story window of WSU’s Webster Physical Sciences Building.

On the ground, Butch T. Cougar begins a countdown: five, four, three, two… At one, the hands release a 10-pound, half-frozen pumpkin that rockets to the courtyard, exploding in a confetti-bomb of cheers, screams, and a thousand gooey fragments.

Strains of Galileo Galileo from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” fill the plaza and down comes another pumpkin, then another and another. So begins that nerdy-fun Dad’s Weekend tradition—the Pumpkin Drop.

“Throwing out pumpkins is kind of a rush,” says … » More …

Deer at Twilight book cover
Fall 2018

Deer at Twilight—Poems from the North Cascades

Deer at Twilight book cover

By Paul J. Willis ’80 MA, ’85 PhD

Stephen F. Austin State University Press: 2018

 

Hiking solo through the mountains can be a lonely endeavor. Missing human companionship, some turn to the subtle moods and personalities inherent in the woodland world itself.

Those emotional complexities come alive in this lovely little volume written while author Paul Willis explored the North Cascades National Park during an artist-in-residence program and a subsequent residency with the North Cascades Institute.

His verse covers territory … » More …

Cover of Bound
Summer 2018

Bound

Cover of Bound

James McKean ’68, ’74

Truman State University Press: 2017

 

Bound presents a lyrical memoir about growing up in the Pacific Northwest and the women whose feminine fortitude contributed to the author’s life.

Taking readers into the kitchens and parlors of mid-twentieth-century America, McKean lovingly unpacks the attic trunk, sharing the exploits of his wife, mother, grandmother, and great-great-grandmother-in-law Rachel Cartwright Lee, among others.

At a time when ladies were expected to stay … » More …

Darwin's finches illustration
Summer 2018

Another look at Darwin’s finches

Darwin developed key aspects of his theory of evolution while pondering finches from the Galapagos Islands. It’s only fitting that reproductive biologist Michael Skinner would choose those same islands to propose a Lamarckian idea—that environment can directly impact inheritance of physical traits.

In this case, the process is driven by epigenetics, he says. “If we think about evolution, we can’t simply think of genetics. We also need to think about epigenetics.”

According to Skinner, epigenetic mutations occur 1,000 times more frequently than do genetic mutations and could help explain why new species emerge more often than expected.

“The reason epimutations exist might be to dramatically … » More …

Summer 2018

Evolution evolution

In a word, Michael Skinner is tenacious. Growing up on a ranch outside Pendleton, the former Eagle Scout and college wrestler learned early on that you don’t back down from a little head-butting or controversy. It’s all just part of the game.

The trait has served Skinner ’82 PhD well over the years and enabled him to persevere through the fallout of a chance discovery in his reproductive biology lab in the 1990s. The unexpected findings threw 200 years of scientific ideology into question and initiated a paradigm shift in the understanding of inheritance and evolution. They also sparked a wave of outrage and … » More …

Satellite map showing smoke covering the entire state of Washington on September 5, 2017
Summer 2018

In the hazy days of summer

It’s no secret that wildfires are on the rise throughout the western United States. Come summer, the plumes of gray-brown smoke seem to arrive weeks earlier and often linger well into fall. The smoke irritates sinuses, clings to clothes, and despite your efforts, seeps into homes and cars like an ever-present smoldering campfire.

On those haze-filled days, people often wonder, “Is it safe for the kids to play outside? To hold a neighborhood BBQ? What about those with asthma or other respiratory problems?”

Engineers at the Washington State University Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR) are helping provide answers through a powerful computer modeling system … » More …

Spring 2018

What dreams may come

If Shakespeare lived today, the playwright would surely be prescribed a sleep study. With his many references to sleep walking, apnea, insomnia, and nightmares, you can almost see the baggy-eyed bard sitting in his nightcap writing by candlelight.

O sleep, gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, that thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down?he bemoans in Henry IV, Part 2.

It’s a familiar lament to all those who have lain awake yearning for sleep’s healing balm. But there the comparison ends.

While Shakespeare’s restless, seventeenth-century nights were lit with a single amber flame, today’s insomniacs are usually staring at … » More …

WSU alumni headshot in a speech bubble
Spring 2018

What a time it was

One by one, they share memories of curfews, 42-cent dinner dates at the CUB, the JFK assassination, and the birth of women’s lib. A few regale listeners with the infamous tale of the 1964 “Pot Push,” which had nothing to do with cannabis.

These are just a sample of the treats recorded at the recent Diamond and Golden Grads digital storytelling workshops, led by Washington State University English instructor and former assistant director of the Digital Technology and Culture program Rebecca Goodrich.

The workshops, held at the Lewis Alumni Centre during the Diamond and Golden reunions, are available to visiting 50- and … » More …