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Scott LaGreca, Class of 1987, Inducted in 2007

Under Scott LaGreca’s year book picture are the words Thanx 2 the faculty 4 many laughs!...Remember, it’s only mountains. Was this one who could foresee the lingo of today’s youth or one who saw obstacles as something surmountable?

Scott grew up in the Changing Seasons neighborhood of Fayetteville. The surrounding woods with its maze of trails in summer and cross-country ski avenues in winter became a favorite haven for Scott. Fascinated by the blooming wildflowers and trees, he watched their succession through the seasons.

“This early curiosity in botany was encouraged by my grandparents, who gave me a book on wildflower identification,” Scott reports, “and that’s when I was able to start learning the names of all the plants I saw.” So could it be all those Latin names that influenced his English diction?

At F-M Scott took every possible biology course offered, including AP, served on the staff of the Sting and the yearbook. He participated in Model UN and the National Honors Society. Hard work and involvement provided no obstacles for Scott.

Yet the cost of attending college loomed large. He credits his mother’s faith in him and her sacrifices and determination to secure funding for his academic success. It was while a student at Cornell that he was introduced to the world of lichens. With a B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell University, he went on to study lichenology and earn a Ph. D in Botany from Duke University.

From there he taught at James Madison University, and then moved to a position of curator of Harvard University’s Farlow Herbarium. The collection he oversaw contains over 1,319,000 lichen, fungi, moss, and algae specimens. Again, this was not an insurmountable mountain for Scott.

Scott’s extensive knowledge, research and publication record, and attention to detail led to his appointment in 2004 as the Curator of Lichens and Manager of the Cryptogamic (lower plants such as lichens, fungi, moss, and algae) Herbarium at the Natural History Museum in London, United Kingdom. This position is considered a “plum” for lichenologists and seen as a significant accomplishment for a scientist as young as Scott.

In a short period of time Scott has transformed the museum’s magnificent lichen collection, making it more accessible and promoting its use among international researchers. In addition to the continuation of his own research, serving as Secretary of the British Lichen Society and as a book review editor for the journal, The Bryologist, Scott’s mission is to spread the word about lichens.

He continues to educate others through leading museum tours, addressing school groups, conducting workshops. He needs to speak the language of science in the words of today’s youth. Igniting the interest of others in the study of lichens is just one more mountain that Scott chooses to climb because as Scott says, “Lichens get all of their nutrients and water from the air. They are like the “canaries” of the botanical world – they are very sensitive to changes in air quality and react more quickly than most other organisms.”

Outside the world of lichens, moss, fungi, and algae, Scott sings in a community choir and keeps fit by regularly attending the gym. “I really think a sound body helps support a sound mind.” These help control job stress, but true relaxation comes for Scott when he is able to get out in the field and do research, whether it is places similar to the woods of Fayetteville or the brush dunes of Bermuda, a recent research location.

Scott’s father, mother, and sister still reside in the Fayetteville-Manlius area. So every now and again, it just might be Scott who’s seen wandering the hills and creek sides of his home town with an eye on the blooming wildflowers.

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