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Sustaining Discovery for Generations: Spring 2019

Larry Sobotka

In this lush natural environment, young learners can touch and smell plant life, observe fish and frogs and insects, and feel the footprints of various species native to Pennsylvania. It all happens just outside Stouffer Hall in a pavilion called the Science Discovery and Outdoor Learning Center.

The center has a new friend and benefactor, Larry Sobotka ’63, who recently provided $150,000 to support the center and create a scholarship. He also has pledged upward of $1 million from a portion of his estate to sustain the center for generations of young learners and the IUP student teachers who guide them.

“A lifetime of discovery never ends,” said the retired chemistry and physical science teacher who now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Science Discovery and Outdoor Learning Center

During his career and after his retirement, Sobotka traveled extensively—sometimes for pleasure and sometimes because of a love of learning. In addition to taking a multitude of courses beyond his master’s degree and teaching summer courses to other teachers, he also developed interests connected to the outdoors—biking, skiing, and landscaping, for example.

“My interest in nature and landscaping did not come from a book,” Sobotka said. “By taking a seed from an orange and planting it, I discovered it could sprout and eventually grow into a beautiful tree. Science showed me that it needed water and nutrients to survive. Education is that seed which allows children to grow into adults. The teacher provides the nutrients.

Pond at the Science Discovery and Outdoor Learning Center

“My wish is for students to discover knowledge that does not come from just the books they read. It also comes from the hands-on, physical world of the environment around them. To plant something and watch it grow over time can be as exciting and fulfilling as reading a book about Johnny Appleseed.”

If you, too, would like to transform lives through the Imagine Unlimited Campaign, please contact the University Advancement office at 724-357-5661 or visit Imagine Unlimited.