With spring arriving and another year’s classwork completed, it was a day to honor a dreamer and a doer.
A spring breeze carried the songs of birds and the scent of May-blooming flowers on Friday afternoon, May 9, as Cayuga Community College faculty and staff joined with Steenburgh’s family in an outdoor ceremony dedicating the college’s nature center in his memory.
“We are dedicating a remembrance to one of our own, and as you know, one of our best,” said Dennis Golladay, president of the college, at the ceremony. “Teaching was in his soul.”
He added that “Many of our academic policies and traditions date from Tom’s time as academic dean,” and praised Steenburgh’s “integrity, his honesty . . . his character.”
Steenburgh, a professor of biology and geology at Cayuga, was instrumental in establishing the nature center as a venue for classes, activities, meetings, and recreation. The site includes a building with a spacious multi-use room and extensive zoology exhibits, along with gardens, ponds, a gazebo, and a wooded trail that draws walkers, joggers, and cross-country skiers.
Agnes Crothers, president of the college’s faculty association, recalled Steenburgh’s years of “planning, planting, and appreciating . . . his vision of the completed project,” as well as the spontaneous science and ecology lessons he gave to visitors as the center took shape.
A member of the college community for 30 years, Steenburgh joined the faculty in 1971. He became director of continuing education in 1978 and was named academic and faculty dean in 1981. He returned to science teaching in 1991, and retired in August 2000.
After Steenburgh’s death in November 2001, a Cayuga Community College scholarship was established in his honor. Following unanimous votes by the Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees and the Cayuga County Legislature, the college’s nature center was named the Thomas F. Steenburgh Nature Center.