In Loving Memory of My Father Lee B. Waian

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost

Some things can be summed up in a sentence. The way I feel about my father is not one of those. Robert Frost offers us a glimpse – a sentiment that, at least in part, provides a snapshot of the imaginative, brave & wonder-filled man that he was and an image of the road that he & I traveled together on for the greater part of my seminal years.  He was my father, teacher, mentor & friend (my best buddy!).

“I’m not perfect, kid,” he would say.  “Yeah, yeah, I know,” I would reply, all the while thinking that ‘perfect’ is exactly what he was despite any proclamations by him that he was anything but flawless. The truth is, my dad was perfect for me even if he wasn’t ‘perfect’ in an absolute sense. He was exactly the father that I needed and, without hesitation, exactly the kind of friend I needed, too.

When my father passed away in 2010, it felt as if my world was over and that road…gone. In reflection, however, our journeys on that road & into the great wide open have never really stopped; he is always by my side.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend so many wonderful years with such an amazingly bright, articulate and passionate man — one who so powerfully impacted my soul that the effects of his presence are still yet rippling and unfolding.

My respect, love, like and admiration for him were & are rivaled only by my gratitude for having had the opportunity to be a part of his life and to learn from him the many poignant lessons that I did (and still do).

We were loyal wolves, he and I. And while it is true that a bit of me died with him when he passed away —  I feel comforted in the thought that perhaps this vacancy in my heart will only serve to allow more room for the lessons he will inevitably continue to teach me in this wild ride we call life. Like Plato, my father continues to exist in the “spaces, breaths, and moments in between”…

Merlin MCC | Father & Daughter | Lee B. Waian and Marisa Diaz-Waian

Lee was born and raised in Southern California. He mostly attended schools in Burbank, except for a brief stint in the 8th & 9th grade where he went to school in Corvallis, Oregon. He rebelled against the regimentation of public schools & lived for weekends, holidays, and summers tromping through the wild places near his home.

A well-liked and respected kid, Lee participated in basketball & track in high school and loved listening to music (especially jazz & the blues).  After high school he briefly attended Glendale Community College and worked in industry for nearly three years in construction and factory jobs until, at age 20, the draft seemed imminent. He then joined the navy & spent 2 years in the San Francisco Bay area. It was here in the service that Lee discovered the philosophers’ Socrates, Plato, & Aristotle.

After discharge, Lee dedicated his life to higher education and giving back to the community.  He returned to Glendale Community College and then U.C. Santa Barbara, where he received a degree in Biology.  He attended graduate school at U.C. Berkeley in Zoology and Education and taught high school in King City, CA for 2 years before returning to U.C. Santa Barbara for a Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology studying predator-prey relationships.  He also dabbled in vocational woodworking including marquetry, professional furniture design and construction, and antique furniture restoration.

Over the course of Lee’s rich & varied life, he accomplished many great things.  A brief overview of just a few of his adventures & contributions to the world are listed below:

  • Professional academic work history at UCSB included: a Scripps Institute of Oceanography trained/paid SCUBA Scientific Collector; Teaching Associate; Museum Preparatory; and Research Associate; Participated in a commercial fishing venture.
  • Worked on projects throughout the U.S. as a scientist and manager ranging from design and environmental impact of bikeways to site selection and the environmental impact of nuclear power plants.
  • Scientist and manager with a national environmental engineering corporation, a principal in the formation of a non-profit environmental assessment company, and independent environmental consultant.
  • Ecologist on the classic Impacts of Growth study on Santa Barbara, resulting in a population growth limit set by Santa Barbara – the study was published as a text by Prager Press.
  • Wrote, produced, and marketed a film on White-Tailed Kites and consulted on several other environmental films.
  • Wrote and coauthored several scientific, technical, and popular publications, including Natural History Magazine, technical publications such as environmental impact statements and reports, and scientific journals such as Condor and California Fish & Game.
  • Tenure-Track Assistant Professor and first Director of Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, C.S.U. Fullerton. Established a Masters Degree program in nature interpretation.
  • Licensed fishing guide, professional fly fishing instructor & consultant.
  • Professor of Environmental Studies, Chair, Department of Environmental Studies, Acting Division Dean, Saddleback College.
  • Developed a grant funded solar training program, an award winning Naturalist Training program and an Ecological Restoration program. Utilized grants to establish a campus outdoor classroom facility with endangered habitats representing southern California plant communities.
  • Led a student, faculty, and staff effort to provide a thorough environmental survey of Saddleback College that provided a management tool for sustainable cost-effective management of the college.
  • Consulted for/worked with several environmental & government agencies to help address damages and formulate and lead preservation & restorative wildlife habitat strategies and efforts after the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding area fires.
  • Purchased a large piece of land outside of Helena, MT and worked with The Nature Conservancy to set it up under a conservation easement.  This piece of land is called ‘Merlin Nature Preserve.’
  • Designed & helped build an advanced solar set-up & off-the-grid establishment on Merlin Nature Preserve that would serve as his residence (when he retired) & a place for wildlife & habitat monitoring.
  • Put in motion the beginning phases of long-term wildlife habitat restoration on Merlin Nature Preserve in concert with neighboring ranches (all in conservation easements) near Helena, MT.
  • Consulted with NGO’s and agencies in the effort to restore endangered Steelhead Trout in Southern California and other areas.
  • Roamed the earth…

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