As a kid, Aidan Mullin was never into super heroes. His interests lay in the outdoors. He went camping, hiking, and fishing. He also gravitated to science -- dirt and plants in particular.
“He was interested in soils and sustainability and was always trying to get the perfect mix of different soil, fertilizers, and nutrients, and to see the impact on his own vegetable gardening,” says Aidan’s father, Brennan Mullin. “He just enjoyed getting his hands dirty and I think appreciated the satisfaction it brought him.”
Aidan passed away unexpectedly last year at age 18, though his passion for the earth and for Humboldt State University, where he was determined to go to college, lives on through the Aidan Leaf Mullin Memorial Scholarship.
Established this year with a gift of $50,000 from Brennan and his wife, Kristin, the annual scholarship will award at least $1,000 to help HSU students pursuing Botany, Rangeland Resource Science, or Forestry cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses.
Scholarship recipients are those who embody Aidan’s ideals of fostering sustainable agriculture through soils, says Brennan.
Rangeland Resource Science major Olivia Winslow is one of those students.
Like Aidan, Olivia admires nature and was captivated by the natural surroundings of HSU. Fascinated by the interactions between soils and plant communities, she is learning there’s no such thing as “bad” soil—only soil that can improve. She aspires to apply her knowledge to pursue a career as a soil scientist or rangeland management specialist.
“I want to work with landowners in the livestock or agriculture industry to help them develop the tools and techniques they need to remain profitable while also taking into account the sustainability of land use and even improving land quality for future generations,” she says. “I want to thank Aidan’s family for giving me the opportunity to continue in my education in this field and to pursue my passion.”
Other recipients include Elijah Severson (Forestry), Karley Rojas (Botany), and Courtney Copper (Botany).
“We are looking for students who share Aidan’s passion and who may not have the resources to pursue what they wanted to do, and we want to help their dreams come true,” says Brennan.
Aidan’s own dreams involved sustainable farming. Living at the base of the Santa Cruz mountains where farming is common, he wanted to teach others how to live off the land without harming the environment.
And there was no school he wanted to attend except HSU, where he was inspired by the science programs and beautiful surroundings. He often traveled from his home in Monte Sereno to Humboldt to visit his aunt, Lucy Kerhoulas, an HSU professor of Forestry.
“He knew he wanted to go to HSU. Humboldt was his favorite place and he loved being up there,” says Kristin.
He also loved climbing a redwood tree. Lucy recalls one of several times she and her husband, Nick, an HSU Wildlife instructor, climbed with Aidan to the top of a redwood in their backyard. “I remember being really impressed with how fearless he seemed, shimmying up the tree. And at the top he was very at ease,” says Lucy.
He was as comfortable 125 feet in the air as he was growing varieties of peppers in his family’s backyard, seizing every opportunity to experience the outdoors. His free spirit, respect for nature, and compassion for others is captured in the scholarship.
“Aidan would be so happy about our family providing opportunities to HSU students,” says Kristin.