The trail is icy. It’s a bright 20-degree November afternoon, and Ron Hoham and Pete Rand ’87 are clambering up the bouldered crest of Bald Mountain just north of Old Forge, N.Y.
    Once they reach the Rondaxe Fire Tower, they hunker down on a rock and tuck into a true hiker’s lunch. Apples. Sandwiches made with almond butter and home-canned Mt. Hood strawberry jam that Pete had brought as a gift from Portland.
    Then it’s up the metal-runged stairs of the tower. Up in the cab, they take in the crystal-clear view and some snapshots.
    Ever the teacher, Ron, a retired biology professor, points out the landmarks in the Fulton Chain of Lakes below, the craggy peaks. There’s Woodhull. Blue Mountain. Algonquin. Mt. Marcy. He knows them all.
    Known by his friends as a “fitness fanatic,” Ron has set himself a goal: to climb all 24 fire towers in the Adirondack Park. He completed another self-challenge in September: a nine-year effort to ride his bike around every one of New York’s 11 Finger Lakes.
    Perhaps the most extraordinary part? He’s biked 10 of the 11 Finger Lakes and climbed 9 of the 20 fire towers with Colgate alumni: 13 in all, Pete among them for several.
    Some were students in his classroom and research lab. Others, he met elsewhere. All share his interest in the outdoors and have spent many hours with him biking or hiking (or both) and more.
    “That’s what makes Colgate unique — this ability to connect with teachers outside of class, and Ron exemplifies that,” said Pete.

Perhaps the most extraordinary part? He’s biked 10 of the 11 Finger Lakes and climbed 9 of the 20 fire towers with Colgate alumni: 13 in all.

    “When I was looking for my first job in 1971, my graduate adviser encouraged me to go to a big research university,” said Ron. “But my dream was to be in a liberal arts setting, where I could build relationships with my students that make something like this possible.”
    He’s a methodical guy, with an encyclopedic memory, steely attention to detail, and a penchant for classifying things — well suited to his career as a preeminent authority on the mysterious microbes known as snow algae (including in upstate New York).
    So, Ron can also tell you off the top of his head which lake and which fire tower he did when, and who came with him. He also remembers where they all went to grad school, and their career paths. And of course, he documented every trip with a camera (you'll see a couple of classic habits — a triumphant raising of his bike overhead, a thumbs-up pose).
    Ron first met Pete at Colgate Camp on Upper Saranac Lake, on an Outing Club trip in 1985. They took a hike together, and Ron encouraged the budding scientist to sign up for his 1986 summer study group at the Flathead Biological Station in Montana.
    “It was a perfect fit for me. I wanted to learn more about ecology and what it was like to be a scientist,” said Pete. “I’d had this idea of a white coat and a microscope, and that never really appealed to me, but doing work in the field and understanding ecology, and fish and wildlife were the things I was interested in.”
    Fast forward, and Ron the study group leader became a longtime mentor, fellow hiker and bicyclist, and friend. Pete went to graduate school at Syracuse University, where he met his wife, Jen. In 1992, Ron invited the couple, Phil Bolton ’87, and Margit Brazda ’88 (who’d been on the same Montana Study Group as Pete) to join him in his first fire tower climb with alumni, at Goodnow Mountain. A couple years later, Pete, Todd Whitman ’90, and some other friends cyled with Ron around his first Finger Lake (Skaneateles).
    Now Pete has come full circle to help the next generation of Colgate teachers and students. A conservation biologist for the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Ore., he came to campus to discuss his work, internships, and careers in conservation in November (read more on page 33). The trip to Hamilton became a perfect time for that climb up Bald Mountain.
“Always with Ron, the journey is the reward,” said Pete. “We’ve summited many peaks, and biked islands and around lakes, but it’s the great conversation, and his sometimes zany, quirky habits that make it special!” Of course, the 12 other alumni, who’ve gone on to a striking variety of careers, have their own stories to tell, of connections made and moments shared with the teacher and mentor who became a lifelong friend.
Scroll down to see this cycle in full color. It’s just one example of the enduring connections between Colgate teachers and learners.

“Always with Ron, the journey is the reward.”

Professor of biology emeritus (retired 2006)
  • Co-authored papers with 37 students
  • Sidney J. and Florence Felten French Prize for       inspirational teaching, 2005; Phi Eta Sigma           Professor of the Year, 2006
  • Led three study groups at Montana Flathead Lake   Biological Station
  • Faculty liaison, varsity swimming and diving, 
  • Four broadcasts about snow algae on NPR’s           Pulse of the Planet
  • Finger Lakes cycled: All 11
  • Adirondack fire towers summited: 20 — 4 to go!

Chris Yatsko '83     
Biology major; co-author on a paper;
Montana Study Group, 1982

MS, MEd, Syracuse University
Earth science and biology teacher, Lansing (N.Y.) Central Schools

Gore Mountain (with track teammate Paul Colletti ’81, October 2010 and 2011), Woodhull Mountain (August 2013)
“I got my first job out of college through Ron. He was close with a former Colgate professor, Bob Singer, who had moved to Syracuse University. I worked there doing acid rain research for four years, got my master’s there, and that’s what led me to my teaching career. I don’t think I could have done it without Ron.”  

Biology major; advisee; phycology TA,
Montana Study Group, 1982

MS in phycology, Northern Arizona University
Worked at environmental/conservation center in New York
ABMP certified massage therapist

Gore Mountain (with track teammate Chris Yatsko ’83, October 2010 and 2011)
“Ron’s Phycology class opened my world to the field of ecology and research. He suggested graduate school at Northern Arizona University with his friend, Dean Blinn. This led to a 10-year stint of teaching high school science. But more important, Ron’s interest in me as a person made me feel like I mattered.”

“Chris and I attended Paul’s wedding together,
and I was an usher in Chris’ wedding.” — Ron


Psychology major; Met Ron at Bally’s health club in Syracuse, 1993
MS, counseling services, SUNY Oswego
PhD, University of Virginia
Counseling professor, Shippensburg University

Skaneateles Lake (with Pete Rand ’87, September 1994)

“He helped me reconnect with my Colgate adviser, Dr. Myra Smith, and Professor Carrie Keating, both of whom gave me sage advice as I started my career in the professoriate.”

  Biology major; Montana Study Group, 1986
MD, Albany Medical School

Psychiatrist, Portland, Ore.

Goodnow Mountain (with Margit Brazda ’88, Jen and Pete Rand ’87, July 1992)

“Ron helped connect me to Dr. Werner, a physician in Hamilton, N.Y. I spent one of my summers during medical school shadowing him and learning about family medicine.”

Biology major; Montana Study Group, 1986
MS, PhD, SUNY College of Environmental   Science and Forestry

Postdoc, University of British Columbia
Senior conservation biologist, Wild Salmon       Center, Portland, Ore.

Skaneateles Lake (September 1994), Otisco Lake (August 2009)

“When Pete was a postdoc at UBC, I linked him with Bill Mohn ’83, a professor there, to cycle the four San Juan Islands in Washington State’s Puget Sound with me.” — Ron

Goodnow Mountain (with his wife Jen, Margit Brazda ’88, and Phil Bolton ’87, July 1992), Bald Mountain (November 2013)

  Biology major; biology advisee, Montana Study Group, 1986; lab researcher, co-author on a paper
MS, water resource management, SUNY ESF
Owner, grant development consultant, Grants4Good; development officer, RIT’s institute for the deaf

Skaneateles Lake (August 2004)

“My quest for cycling around the eleven New York Finger Lakes began in earnest with this ride with Margit and her husband, Dave Poirier. They encouraged me.” — Ron

Keuka Lake (August 2006), Canandaigua Lake (September 2009), Honeoye Lake and Canadice Lake (with Burton Rankie ’05, August 2011)

Goodnow Mountain (July 1992, with Jen and Pete Rand ’87 and Phil Bolton ’87)



Molecular biology major; Met Ron at the Colgate gym, summer 2002, during his chemistry internship
DDS, SUNY Buffalo (valedictorian)
Orthodontist in Maine and New Hampshire

Owasco Lake (June 2010), Honeoye Lake and Canadice Lake (with Dave and Margit Brazda Poirier ’88, August 2011)

“I chose Colgate over several other schools because it felt like a community of friends, and Ron embodies that. I met Margit through Ron. She and her husband have become good friends. Margit also coached me swimming, which tremendously improved my speed in triathlons.”

“‘Ronboused up one of his nine lives on a high-speed descent. He took an ambitious line on a hairpin turn, going off the road and fishtailing in the gravel. Amazingly, ‘Hohammer’ kept the bike upright and was back on the road moments later.” — Todd Whitman ’90

“When I tell my friends and colleagues that I am still in touch with my biology professor and adviser, they are in awe.” — Margit Brazda Poirier ’88


Biology major; advisee; 3.5 years in Ron’s
research lab; co-authored 3 papers

Finishing dental school, Columbia University; upcoming residency, U.S. Navy 

Owasco (August 2011), Cayuga Lake (The final ride, September 2013)

“Jeff joined me to cycle the 87 miles around; he really wanted to do it with me so I could complete my goal. We lucked out with awesome weather and celebrated afterward in an Ithaca Mexican restaurant.” — Ron

Pillsbury Mountain (with Jesse Berman ’04, August 2009)

  Environmental biology and English double major; lab researcher (with Jeff Ryba ’05); co-authored 2 papers
MHS, PhD, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Postdoc, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Snowy Mountain (August 2007), Vanderwhacker Mountain (August 2008), Pillsbury Mountain (with Jeff Ryba ’05, August 2009)

“I got my first job through Ron. He introduced me to Carolyn Scrafford ’99 at the consulting firm Exponent in Washington, D.C. I joined the firm doing food and chemical risk assessment and worked with Carolyn for three years before graduate school.”

Biology major; 3.5 years in his research lab; co-authored 3 papers
MD, U of Pittsburgh
General surgeon, Buffalo, N.Y.

Owasco Lake (July 2009), Conesus Lake (August 2010), Hemlock Lake (August 2010), Seneca Lake (September 2012 — a “virtual” ride)

“After two rainout attempts to cycle around Seneca Lake with Rurik, I decided to do it solo on a beautiful day. Rurik and I texted one another as I cycled around the lake, and his texts were great support even though he was not there in person.” — Ron

“It is professors like Ron who not only take an interest in their students during their years at Colgate, but also long after, that help to make it a truly special place.” – Jeff Ryba ’05

“I attended Jesse’s wedding in Alexandria, Va. I also stayed at his parents’ camp near Schroon Lake when Jesse and I hiked up Rooster Comb Mountain. He was an environmental studies ‘brown bag’ speaker at Colgate in 2012.” — Ron

“Ron always had plenty of good stories to tell to make a five-hour ride fly by. He was also good for a Blue Moon at the lunch break.” — Rurik Johnson ’98


Political science major; Intro to Biology and Plant Evolution; Hamilton Fire Department volunteer
Daughter-in-law: volunteered with — and later married! — Ron’s son Ross
Advancement operations director at Colgate

Bald Mountain (with Ross and their son, Nathan, July 2011)

  Peace studies major; Volunteered at Hamilton Fire Department with Ron’s son Ross
Firefighter/paramedic, Derry, N.H.

Wakely Mountain (with Ross, June 2003)

“This friendship shows that Colgate relationships go so much deeper than with just classmates.” 

Geography major, geology minor; Intro to Biology; Hamilton Fire Department volunteer with Ron’s son Ross
Graduate study in GIS/Remote Sensing, University of Kansas
Regional sales manager, Latin America & Caribbean, Trimble Navigation, Ltd.

Blue Mountain (with Ross, October 2001)

“We got off to a late start, hiked up the mountain and watched the sunset, then came down using flashlights the entire way.” — Ron

Rob Atwater '93 and Dave Guinotte ’02 were ushers in Ross and Lindsey’s
    (Brandolini ’05) wedding in June 2007 in the Colgate chapel.” — Ron


New Campus Connections

Pete Rand ’87 was reading the Colgate Scene when he came across an article about the research of Jessica Graybill, associate professor of geography and chair of Colgate’s Sustainability Council.
    “She had spent time in Sakhalin and Kamchatka, and I thought, wow, a Colgate professor doing work in an area that we’re working in,” said Rand, a conservation biologist. “The Russian Far East is a wild place. There’s not many people working there. I got quite excited, so I wrote her an e-mail. She said, why don’t you come? Our students are interested in what the Wild Salmon Center is doing.”
    Sponsored by Graybill and biology’s Randall Fuller (who was his adviser), Rand spent two days on campus in November 2013, giving a guest lecture in Graybill’s Arctic Transformations class, a public presentation on his conservation work with Pacific salmon, and meeting with professors and students in biology, environmental studies, and Russian and Eurasian studies.
    Colgate’s interested students are potential finds for Rand’s organization. “You usually find individuals with an interest in Russian language and an understanding of the culture, or a science background, not both. But at a place like Colgate, interdisciplinary skills are encouraged. One of the things that’s going to come from this is that we’re going to get some bright young interns or employees working with us in this conservation work.”