Longtime Biology Professor Retires

This spring, after 25 years at Lewis & Clark, Ken Clifton, professor of biology, retired. We asked him about his past experiences and his plans for the future.

Path to Lewis & Clark: My first introduction to Lewis & Clark occurred at a remote campsite in the Masai Mara region of Kenya in 1990. While there, I was asked to give a lecture about my gazelle research to a bunch of scruffy undergraduates from a small liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. Fast-forward eight years and I found myself inter- viewing for a faculty position at that same school! I’ve been at L&C ever since.

Favorite courses to teach: While I enjoyed teaching all of my classes, Animal Behavior and Marine Biology are both passions of mine, so those were always my favorites. Of course, teaching biology as part of overseas instruction was also very special.

What you’ve enjoyed most: Working with students outside of traditional class- room settings was always a treat. The natural world is full of important lessons that are best learned by example rather than a textbook.

What you’re most proud of: First, I’m proud of the growth of the biology department and my commitment to seeing our junior faculty succeed. During my tenure, including five years as department chair, the biology department grew by 1 FTE, became more diverse, increased its number of majors, and maintained a standard of excellence that is nationally recognized by our peer institutions.

Second, I’m proud of my efforts to promote and maintain excellence in our overseas programs. In addition to leading seven semester-long overseas study programs (one to Micronesia in 2002 and six to East Africa in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2022), I also worked extensively with the Office of Overseas and Off-Campus Programs on curriculum development in places like Ecuador, Australia, and the Dominican Republic.

And finally, I’m proud of the accomplishments of my students and their ability to use their education in meaningful ways. As you might expect, many students followed a path in biology, and it’s gratifying to see them finding success as teachers and researchers. Others have used their liberal arts training to find success and satisfaction as librarians, architects, mushroom farmers, software developers, philanthropists, and more.

What’s next: I hope to spend more time fishing, birding, and spending time with my grandkids. I’ve also enjoyed serving as a faculty leader on several alumni travel pro- grams (Tanzania, Antarctica, San Juan Islands), with plans to continue those efforts in the foreseeable future, including an Arctic expedition in 2024 and a Tanzania program in early 2025.