Director of Rice Creek Field Station remembered by Oswego community

Dr. Lucina Hernandez Laundre, the director of the Rice Creek Field Station, passed away on Oct. 10 after a long fight with cancer.

Laundre, 53, had friends and family who gathered on Oct. 18 in the building she helped build for a celebration of her life.

The classroom in Rice Creek was filled with about 100 people.

Rhonda Mandel, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, opened the celebration of life. Mandel was dean at the time of Laundre’s hiring.

“She was the most prepared candidate I have ever seen in 12 years interviewing job candidates,” Mandel said.

Mandel said that Laundre “had a vision of Rice Creek as a bustling hub for faculty and students,” seeing the potential in everything.

“She looked at what was and saw what could be,” Mandel said.

Laundre received a promotion to associate professor this year and has over 10 different publications in her career, according to her page on Oswego.edu.

Laundre was born in Mexico City and had spent her years at Oswego State as director of Rice Creek since 2008. She gradutated with her doctorate in ecology from Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Mexico in 1995, the same place where she earned her master’s in ecology.

“Her legacy will live on through the scientific knowledge she produced, through the students she mentored, or the colleagues she inspired and the family she created,” said Richard Back, interim dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences.

Back told a story of how he was communicating with someone in Peru and he would ask Laundre to let him know how he was doing with translations. He said that she helped him strengthen his Spanish.

Laundre enjoyed all aspects of nature, especially in Central New York.

“Every season, every opportunity she would talk about how she loved being in Central New York,and loved exploring New York state and the Northeast,” Diann Jackson, assistant director of Rice Creek Field Station, said.

Laundre loved the environment, but she loved the rewards from teaching at Oswego State.

“Her face would light up when talking about students,” Jackson said. “Whenever you talk to a teacher, they talk about wanting to make a difference, and I know she did.”

Jackson said Laundre she will be deeply missed and was a pleasure to work with these past five years.

Laundre’s niece, Anna, spoke on behalf of the family.

“She didn’t want anyone to be sad,” Anna said. “She knew she didn’t have much time left, she said, ‘I want to live, I’m here now, let’s celebrate now.’

“She defined joy, she defined love, and because you’re sad is because of that, because she was so good at being joyful and loving.”

Eric Hellquist, assistant professor of biological sciences spoke of his friendship with Laundre.

“Lucina and I bonded immediately over our love of ecology,” Hellquist said. “Lucina was a top-notch ecologist who I admired and respected as a friend, colleague and scientist.”

Hellquist talked about how Laundre enjoyed all aspects of life, which added to her personality.

“I think her joy, strength and positive energy originated from her love of life, her family and the natural world,” Hellquist said.

Hellquist said she was dedicated to bringing education and ecology together as one.

“In her classroom, Lucina left an indelible positive impression on her students,” Hellquist said.

“She cared deeply about her science and she cared deeply about sharing it with her students,” Hellquist said. “Her gifts of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm were transformative gifts that will always be fondly recollected by her colleagues and will always be carried forward by her students.”

Hellquist said she was an inspiration to everyone she knew.

“No matter how frustrating her dire situation, Lucina did not flinch,” Hellquist said. “Through her strength and perseverance, she showed us all her character and true courage.”

April Tuttle,secretary for the department of biological sciences, recalled stories of Laundre.

“She would come in the office every morning and say, ‘Hello!’ and it just made everybody smile and it would be a blizzard outside and she would say, ‘Oh it’s a beautiful day,’” Tuttle said.

Tuttle reinforced the idea of Laundre’s strong dedication to her family and students.

“She lived for her family and she lived for her students,” Tuttle said.

One word stood out through the celebration of a beautiful life taken too soon: joy.