Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: A Tribute to Dr. Eastler

I was never much of a student. I did well in school but never particularly enjoyed it.

My Dad, a fellow UMF alumni, isn’t one to give much advice, he has always encouraged me to figure it out on my own. In college when choosing which core classes to take, my Dad told me to sign-up for Dr. Eastler’s Environmental Geoscience course. I remember him telling me that I will have a lot of teachers in my life, but only a few will be really good and Dr. Eastler is one of them. So, I signed up for the class, mostly to fulfill a core science requirement, but also intrigued by Dad’s advice.

I don’t remember much from college, but I remember the first day of Environmental Geoscience and Dr. Eastler dramatically running into the class chasing a ‘deer’ in a bright orange hunting vest. From that very first day of class, he challenged us to think outside the box and consider our personal and collective impacts on the environment. I remember writing an essay on the cornucopian theory and how some believe the earth’s resources are limitless.

In class he repeatedly requested that we call him if we ever noticed the northern lights were out. I remember an evening in the early fall seeing the northern lights for the very first time and calling Dr. Eastler with great excitement to tell him they were out. He dropped the phone and yelled “Susie get out here, the northern lights are out!” He later thanked me for calling.

His spark and joy of learning were magnetic. I remember visiting a number of sites in western Maine during Environmental Geoscience class. We stopped along the banks of the Sunday River and learned about rip rap and how rivers meander, he pointed out important glacial formations and tried to help us visualize how glaciers formed our landscape, and most importantly stopped by the graves of his parents who are buried on his farmstead.

His love of his family and his love of the environment and learning were so clearly evident. I later traveled with Dr. Eastler and a group of students to the Colorado Plateau. We visited so many places in those few weeks, the Grand Canyon, the four corners, the painted desert, Native American ruins, and every place in between. He repeated to us that the trip was meant to be a “lick and a taste” and hoped that one day each one of us could return to our favorite places on our own time.

Although at the time all of these moments seemed insignificant, I now look back and realize what an amazing teacher Dr. Eastler was. It’s been nearly 20 years since I graduated UMF but I still often reflect on the lessons he taught me and his passion for the environment. Among the many lessons, the importance of enjoying what you do, being a life-long learner, making fact-based conclusions, and talking the time to experience the great outdoors first-hand are the lessons that have most impacted my life. Thank you Dr. Eastler for all that you taught me, I am just one of many students that will forever be inspired by your magnetic desire to learn and teach others. And thank you Dad for telling me about Dr. Eastler and encouraging me to take his class. He was an amazing teacher.

Rest in peace Dr. Eastler.

Sarah (Corey) McShane, UMF Class of 2001

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5 Responses »

  1. That was a very well written letter and spoke very highly of Dr.Eastler. Dr.Eastler was a very knowledgeable man and he will be missed for sure.

  2. What a wonderful tribute! How I wish I had known him as all I have heard and read about him is so intriguing!
    If only we had more teachers like this that could be written about! There are so many good teachers in this area but Dr. Eastler is truly a Great!

  3. Sarah, you nailed it. Tom Eastler meant a lot to a great many UMF students, staff, and community members. You described him and his impact perfectly. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute. I miss him.

  4. Thank you for such a fitting tribute. I have been unable to put into words what a great impact he has had on my life and those of my childrens.

  5. I remember the first time i met tom. Some how, he knew who i was. Rock on Doc!

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