On May 5th, 2019, I received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Southeast. My ~9-minute talk is here. This was quite a departure from my maverick career to date (a maverick is an unbranded calf). For several months I’ve been mulling over what one might say by way of thank-yous and suggestions to the Class of 2019. Reliving the half-century of adventures that brought me to Lingít Aaní, I realized that what I most wanted to talk about was the role of outsiders, and the tension between social structures and dissenting individuals in the never-concluded search for ‘truth’ and ‘objectivity.’
Probably safe to say that most recipients of these honors respond with more decorum. I hope my levity doesn’t suggest ingratitude; I’m deeply touched not only by the work of friends who nominated me, but by the University’s welcome to a 1971 dropout. If an institution can be said to have a ‘sense of humor,’ UAS certainly qualifies!
Maybe the reason I survived 50 years, unembittered, as an outsider to institutions (Discovery of course excepted) is that: 1) I hold no ambition toward rising within hierarchy, and 2) I’ve never felt unappreciated, even by institutions who’d never consider hiring me. For both of these qualities I thank my parents, Pam and Edwin Carstensen. Unconditional love may not produce many CEOs, but it sure can launch a happy and fulfilling life.
3) My third great stroke of luck was meeting the friends who together created Discovery Southeast in the late 1980s. What a welcoming and stimulating home it’s been for an unlettered naturalist! I hope they’ll still talk to me now. . . .