Lof Named Professor Emeritus, Will Continue Long Association with UTB
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 10, 2013 – Lawrence “Larry” Lof received the title of Professor Emeritus in front of his peers at the spring semester faculty convocation on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at The University of Texas at Brownsville.
The faculty members filling the lecture hall of the Science and Engineering Technology Building gave Lof a standing ovation after Dr. Juliet V. García, UTB President, presented Lof with a medal bearing the UTB seal.
Lof, Assistant Professor of biology, joined the faculty of Texas Southmost College in 1975. For the past 37 years with UTB and TSC, he has been sharing his passion – the preservation of native habitats in the northern Mexico/southern Texas ecosystems.
“This is a great honor; I am so pleased,” said Lof, in his typically humble manner.
Lof looks at this new title as more of a beginning than an ending. He said he is thankful for his good health that will allow him to prolong his work with the same fervor he has shown throughout his career.
“I will continue to work with students, moving conservation forward through education,” Lof said. “There are many ways to participate in conservation, and I feel I can best serve through education.”
Among his many accomplishments, Lof has faithfully carried the Gorgas Science Foundation torch passed by TSC Professor Barbara T. Warburton, who established the Mexico Field Station in southern Tamaulipas, Mexico, on property deeded to the college. The station became Lof’s second home, a place where he introduced countless students to America’s northernmost tropical cloud forests located along the eastern escarpment of northeastern Mexico’s Sierra Madre.
Lof is the current president of the Gorgas Science Foundation, established in 1947 by Warburton and formally established with Lof’s help as a non-profit organization in 1983.
“All of us who grew up with Mrs. Warburton as a mentor, as a professor, for all those years that she was here, we learned a certain self-reliance that she taught and insisted on,” Lof said.
Lof said he and Warburton’s followers have always kept her guiding principles close to heart. A case in point is taking control of the Sabal Palms Sanctuary when it was abandoned by the Audubon Society.
“It has been a real pleasure to make Sabal Palm available again for the public,” Lof said. “This is a rare ecosystem that has poked its nose across the border, but really isn’t found anywhere else in South Texas. This is a place where students can study a little area of our delta that represents a forest that covered most of the delta, that is now reduced to a few acres, to understand to how our areas was 100-150 years ago when the Rio Grande was a mighty river that would flood across the lower delta every year.”
Along with an interest in biology and the natural sciences, Lof is passionate about local historical buildings and the architecture of the greater Rio Grande Valley that emerged with the confluence of peoples who settled the area. These include architectural influences from the coastal trading partners of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially styles from New Orleans and Galveston.
“Since I have worked with antiquated ways of construction in Mexico, I was able to translate that into saving the historic buildings of our area – both on campus but also volunteering my time in the community, which I still do,” he said.
A critical component of historical preservation includes having skilled carpenters who understand the proper methods of deconstructing and reconstructing an old building. To help train students interested in learning these techniques, Lof has championed the creation of a historic rehabilitation program in the UTB and TSC Department of Industrial Technology. Students have received hands-on experience by participating in the restoration of a number of campus and community structures under Lof’s management.
Lof serves on the board of directors of Brownsville Historical Association; as Chairman, in 2008, he accepted, along with BHA Executive Director Pricilla Rodriguez, one of Humanities Texas’ two inaugural awards from Gov. Rick Perry, presented in the historic Senate chamber at the State Capitol in Austin.
In 2010, Lof received a Citation of Honor by the Texas Society of Architects, the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “Not being an architect, I was honored to be recognized by a professional group such as the AIA,” Lof said. “What is most important, though, is having the opportunity to call attention to the architectural legacy of the Rio Grande Delta.”
Lof credits the legacy of Warburton as the guiding force that has served him well – and has led many others who have gone on to make contributions to their communities.
"I remember well her encouragement to all of us - to never accept defeat," Lof said. "She taught us to never accept being told something couldn't be done, but to run toward the problem and to tackle it straight on."