Alumni CLASnotes Winter 2003-2004

Donor Spotlight

SonesSones Flies High
When Peter Sones was an undergraduate at Emory University, he majored in political science, though he knew he wanted to be a doctor. "My faculty advisor steered me in the liberal arts direction, and I appreciated it tremendously. I read things about Plato and Aristotle I would have never read otherwise."

Now the retired radiologist from Atlanta has created a scholarship for UF pre-medicine students majoring in the liberal arts. "I think it makes you a better-rounded individual if you get an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts," he says. "One gets all the scientific information you need in medical school and it behooves you to know what goes on in the rest of the world. It makes you a better physician."

The Tampa native never attended UF because UF didn't have a medical program at the time, but he spent weekends in Gainesville, attending football games, fraternity events and other social gatherings with friends who were students at the university.

Sones received his MD from Emory in 1962, and while doing his residency at the University of Texas in 1964, he was drafted into the Air Force to serve in Vietnam. Stationed at Warren Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia, the military taught him how to fly planes, in hopes of recruiting him into the space program. Sones decided, however, that he did not want to be an astronaut. "It was a very tempting offer, but I would have been giving up medicine in the traditional sense, so I decided to go back to practice radiology and fly as a civilian."

Since retiring in 1996, Sones has become active in the Flying Physicians Association. He was named president of the organization in August and oversees its many projects, including the support of aviation safety research, holding lectures for physicians needing to earn continuing education credit, and maintaining a free clinic in Jamaica. Sones resides in Atlanta with his wife, Lindsey, and has five daughters and six grandchildren, including twin grandsons who have applied to UF.

--Buffy Lockette

PoehlingPoehling Foundation Raises Money for Geography Scholarship
The defense of his dissertation was all that stood between geography student Ryan Poehling and his PhD when cancer claimed his life in December 2000. The 27-year-old had already gone to Montreal and Pittsburgh to make presentations about his graduate research when the disease he had been diagnosed with at age 16 resurfaced.

"He was not just our son or brother but a model for humanity," says his father, Hank Poehling. In memory of Ryan's life and endeavors, the Poehling family has created the Ryan Michael Poehling Charitable Foundation Inc., which awards $1,000 fellowships to UF graduate students exemplifying diligence, service and leadership in the geography department. The foundation also has established a scholarship fund at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where Ryan completed his undergraduate work.

Raising about $6,100 for the scholarships and fellowships, the foundation held a golf tournament in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on July 25, 2003. About 90 golfers, including some of Ryan's former classmates, played. The tournament was organized and run by Ryan's parents, Sandy and Hank, and his three brothers, Tom, Pat and Chris. UF's geography department also contributed to the event, sponsoring several holes.

"We are only a small- to medium-sized department, but, at very short notice, the faculty, staff and alumni donated $775," says Geography Professor Peter Waylen.

After Ryan's death, UF presented his parents and widow, Angela, with a posthumous doctoral degree during the 2001 spring commencement.

For information about contributing to the Ryan Michael Poehling Charitable Foundation Inc., please contact Krista Mitchell Cornell in the CLAS Development Office at (352) 392-5412, or send an e-mail to

--Brenda Lee

RV Elliot

Maiden Voyage of the R/V Elliott
On April 26, 2003, CLAS christened the Land Use and Environmental Change Institute's (LUECI) newest research vessel, the R/V Elliottt, thanks to a generous gift from a UF alumnus. The traditional christening ceremony took place on Lake Wauburg as LUECI welcomed the new Kullenberg coring rig purchased and renovated with a donation from geology graduate Gary Myers.

The donation is the first of its type for LUECI since its inception in 2000. The vessel will allow LUECI researchers to obtain longer core samples from deep lakes in order to research past climatic and environmental changes. It will be accessible to graduate students and faculty across many disciplines needing such samples for their research.

"Our attitude at the institute is to facilitate research for graduate students and faculty, not only from the department or college, but also across the college and university," says LUECI Director Mark Brenner. "The vessel will further enhance interdisciplinary research in geology, geography, anthropology and other fields."

A 1974 geology graduate, Myers learned of LUECI and its concept in 2001 when the institute was new and had little history. "The more I learned about LUECI, the more I realized what a novel and unique program it is," Myers said. "Having a coring rig that can operate in deeper water will allow the institute to reach its full potential and get all the pieces of the puzzle in place."

Myers requested the coring rig be named after his son Elliott, who celebrated his 11th birthday the same day as the christening.

--Allyson A. Beutke

SmithersNew Smithers SEM Lab Aids Anthropologists
Constructing a scanning electron microscope (SEM) in the basement of your house might not be a task most people would consider attempting. But for Will Smithers, it was a project that came naturally. "He had so many varied interests, and the fact that he actually bought an electron microscope can give you an indication of the extent of his 'hobbies,'" says Kerry Smithers, Will's wife.

Will died in 2002 in a helicopter accident, and Kerry, who graduated from UF in 1987, decided to give the SEM to UF's anthropology department for use with its forensics research. "Will never attended college, but after visiting with the various faculty and students from the anthropology department, I know he would have loved being in that type of environment with all sorts of brilliant people like himself!"

Will and Kerry founded the company Tradeware Systems in 1993. Located on Wall Street in New York City, Tradeware provides order-management systems and trading connectivity to more than 200 brokers and institutions worldwide. Kerry says Will's interests went way beyond computers and software. "He was a brilliant entrepreneur and businessman whose hobbies included highly technical rebreather and cave diving, genetic engineering, reef aquariums and gourmet cooking. He was completely self-taught in every endeavor he undertook."

The anthropology department has established the William and Kerry Smithers Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory, which is home to the SEM. "A tool such as this provides huge opportunities for research in physical anthropology and archaeology, as well as the life sciences," says John Krigbaum, an anthropology professor who is setting up the SEM. "We'll be examining prehistoric artifacts such as stone and bone tools that may show clues as to how they were used when they were made. We are excited to get it up and running this year!"

--Allyson A. Beutke

Courtesy Peter Sones: (Sones)
Courtesy Poehling Foundation: (Poehling)
Jane Dominguez: RV Elliott
Allyson A. Beutke: (Smithers)

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