Emeritus Professor Establishes Endowment Fund in Honor of Soil Science Mentor Steven E. Slusser

Feb, 2024
A photo of Susan Edinger Marshall on a fieldtrip with students

One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching at Cal Poly Humboldt for recently retired Professor of Rangeland Resources Science, Susan Edinger Marshall, was taking her classes on field trips and soil competitions. These field trips brought students together with professionals on regional rangelands, including soil scientist Steven E. Slusser, who studied and mapped soils in California and Nevada for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. For over 40 years, he joined Susan and other Humboldt professors on field trips, mentoring students and helping them read landscapes better.

To honor her friend, Susan established the Steven E. Slusser Memorial Endowment with a $25,000 gift. The fund will provide financial support for students to travel to conferences, workshops, competitions, and other events related to their academic careers. The scope of funding includes but is not limited to registration fees, transportation, lodging, and other associated costs of attending those events.

“I want to honor Steve's legacy by honoring what he stood for—providing and supporting student learning opportunities. Last spring, I took six students to a soil judging contest in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but we struggled to get enough funding for our trip. Having a dedicated fund would give us more flexibility to assist in more opportunities for students,” Susan says.

Susan received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Ph.D. in Soil Science at UC Riverside and her master's degree in Rangeland Management from the University of Arizona. In 1997, she became a professor in Cal Poly Humboldt’s Rangeland Resource Science program. Rangeland Resource Science blends ecology and management to sustain the viability of natural rangelands that support grazing and browsing livestock and wildlife.

Humboldt’s Rangeland Resource Science Program is focused on hands-on learning, offering students field trips, conferences, and professional meetings.

During their field trips, Susan and her classes would travel to remote locations like Susanville, California, dig a soil pit about a meter deep, and then make observations and interpretations about it. These experiences helped prepare Rangeland Resource Science students for their careers in the field. She likens digging a soil pit to cooking from a recipe.

“It's similar to cooking a recipe from a book. You can read about soils and rangelands, but it's different when you experience it firsthand. You feel the soil, see the rocks, track holes, and smell the vegetation. It's a sensory experience that can't be replicated in a classroom,” Susan says.

Susan hopes to make field trips happen for all students through the Steve E. Slusser Memorial Fund. The fund will provide opportunities for students who have never had certain experiences, such as camping trips. The funds will be used to cover extra fees and rent equipment for student use.

Susan encourages other alumni, field scientists, and friends to donate to the Steven E. Slusser Memorial Fund. This fund is a way to pay it forward so that other students in the program can have the same experiences as they did. Steve was known for his generous spirit, and the fund is a way of continuing his legacy of giving back.

“After retiring, Steve signed up as a volunteer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, allowing him to continue joining us on field trips. He was also a fantastic organic farmer, so if you were interested in agriculture and food, he was someone to learn from. He truly lived and breathed land management and agriculture,” Susan says.

This endowment will create a lasting impact on the lives of future generations of students. Consider making a gift of $25,000 or more to establish a permanent endowed fund and support students while enabling the University to plan for the future. Like Susan, you can designate the annual distribution to fund a scholarship, support an award or assistantship, or strengthen a department or program.

The Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation is nearing its $50 million goal. You can lend your support by contributing to the Boldly Rising campaign, which aims to increase access and create new opportunities for Humboldt. To donate or find out more information, please contact the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation at giving@humboldt.edu or call them at (707) 826-5200.

Photo: Professor Emeritus Susan Edinger Marshall created the Steven E. Slusser Memorial Endowment Fund to help students cover the costs of Rangeland Resource Science field trips, soil competitions, and conferences.