An extracurricular field trip to Solomons Island 50 years ago changed the life of a young high school biology teacher named Eugene L. Cronin.
Cronin's brief summer sojourn to the Calvert County isle piqued his interest in the Chesapeake Bay and marine life. He had to know more, he had to do more.
A few years later, having earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland and founded the marine biology program at the University of Delaware, he returned to Solomons as the director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory located there. That was just the beginning.
Last night, the Izaak Walton League of America and the DuPont Corp.
honored Cronin, an Annapolis resident, for five decades dedicated to understanding and improving the Chesapeake Bay. Cronin was one of two Anne Arundel residents honored during the fifth annual Chesapeake Bay Conservation Awards.
Cronin was a special honoree for his lifetime dedicated to bay research and his presence on numerous advisory panels, including the Severn River Commission and the Environmental Advisory Board of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Millersville resident Lina Vlavianos -- a citizen volunteer well-known to developers as an advocate of stricter erosion controls -- received the award for public service. She is credited with compelling the State Highway Administration to adopt sediment-control standard and the Lighthizer administration to double the sediment-control inspectors it employs.
"I never considered what I did public service," said Vlavianos, who also is a member of the Severn River Commission, a government-appointed advisory panel. "People are making wrong decisions about the environment and somebody had to speak up. All I did was speak up."
Cronin said he hopes the awards "stimulate more people to take part.
When I started, there were only a few of us interested in the bay. Now, there are a tremendous number of people.
The bay needs all the help it can get, Cronin said. "I remember mostly clear water 50 years ago," he said. "It's murkier now."
Linda Winter, director of the Chesapeake Conservation Awards program, agreed the intention of the program is to "encourage others to follow in their footsteps, to pitch in and do their part, too."
Twelve awards were presented during the ceremony at Loews Annapolis Hotel to conservationists, farmers, regulators, teachers, developers, businessmen and students from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Cronin and Vlavianos are not the first countians to receive the awards.
Former director of the Severn River Land Trust Janice Hollman, who died last spring, received the public service award in 1989.