people ask her about her experience being a woman in a field that still
is decidedly male. She acknowledges that she often was the only woman
in her department. And no doubt it was difficult at times. But, like Creighton
and Vennesland, she chose to nurture the next generation of women scientists
by being a role model and mentor instead of a firebrand. McClellan still
recalls her first meeting with Helen. Here she was, in a small basement
lab with cement sinks and brick walls, working with several students.
She had a viable research program that had been funded by NSF. She was
so relaxed and obviously enjoying her career, without actually saying
it. That was more potent to me than any other recruiting message.
That professionalism and dedication earned her uniform respect. Eric Conn,
retired professor of botany from the University of California Davis
and a former colleague of Staffords at the University of Chicago,
puts it best: Helen is not only recognized internationally for her
research, but also as an influential teacher in one of the countrys
premier undergraduate colleges. She has shown her students the excitement,
pleasure, and rewards of a distinguished research career.
Its characteristic that Stafford will help future generations benefit
from Reeds high-level educational experience. By living simply and
investing wisely for many years, Helen was able to endow the $1 million
Morton O. Stafford Jr. scholarship at Reed in memory of her brother, who
was killed in World War II.
Today, while Stafford is a little less adventurous, she stays active.
She still swims regularly and attends chamber music performances. But
arthritis in her shoulders makes gardening harder. And although she no
longer walks to her office at Reed every day, she and Brownie do drive
in most weekdays. There she keeps up on correspondence, tracks the latest
research, edits review articles, and visits with her colleagues. Dalton
says respectfully that she remains the watchdog of the literature.
Fourteen years after retiring, she still edits, comments on, and congratulates
her colleagues work. She adheres to the rigorous research, writing,
and teaching standards that underlie her accomplishments.
In some ways, its a little like those days back in the mid-50s,
when she and three other smart and energetic professors transformed Reeds
biology department into a national leader.
Marnie McPhee is a freelance
writer in Portland.