Stroud™ Water Research Center Director Bernard Sweeney, Ph.D., was standing at the top of a ladder in his garage on a Saturday morning this past summer with a paint brush in his hand when his cell phone rang.
It was Sandy Sage and his wife Honor, calling to let him know that they were with Nathan and Marilyn Hayward in the Berkshire Mountains. The Haywards had just shared with them Bern’s letter to them and their foundation confirming approval of the Hayward’s proposal regarding a naming opportunity granted to their foundation in return for a generous donation to the Stroud Center’s new LEED Platinum Moorhead Environmental Complex.
Indeed, the main lobby area of the building would be named for Sandy in recognition of his many years of help and assistance to the Stroud Center and its mission.
The conversation soon moved everyone to tears of joy and quickly forced Bern down the ladder.
“I started crying, and they started crying and then I started crying harder. Later on I had to explain to my wife why the paint job looks so diluted,” he quipped.
Honoring Steadfast Support
Sweeney said his emotions had also welled up months earlier when the Haywards first proposed the concept of the “Sandy Sage Lobby” which took him by surprise because such naming opportunities usually involve the names of the individual donors or a very close relative.
The inscription on the plaque reads: “Dr. Louis E. ‘Sandy’ Sage whose steadfast support and encouragement has helped the Stroud Water Research Center become a world-class science, education and restoration center — from a family of his closest friends.”
The October dedication ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate Sage’s long history with and contributions to the Stroud Center.
Sage, who holds a Ph.D. in marine biology, worked for 23 years as a scientist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, under which the Stroud Center operated as a field station before becoming an independent institution. During 14 of those years, Sandy was Vice President of Environmental Research and Sweeney’s direct supervisor.
A Boss, a Mentor, a Friend
“Sandy was my official boss, in the early 80s,” Sweeney recalled, adding that he and Sage became close friends.
I don’t think I would have been as successful in my career without his coaching in my early years,” Sweeney added that Sage also provided, well, sage advice.
For example, when Stroud Center was expanding its original facilities, Sage advised Sweeney to invest in constructing basement laboratory space. But Sweeney argued that the Stroud Center didn’t need all that space. “Just trust me,” Sage replied. Sweeney said he was glad he took Sage’s advice, since those labs quickly became filled and remain crucial to the Stroud Center’s work.
“I never felt that Sandy got his just due for everything he did for us and for the Academy overall,” Sweeney said. He recalled Sage spending countless hours helping with research projects and securing donors to fund the Stroud Center’s work.
Nathan Hayward said his family’s decision to honor Sandy Sage was an easy one. “Our families have been the closest of friends for 50 years. It gives us an enormous amount of pleasure to honor Sandy and to help Bern and the Stroud Center because of the incredible amount of good work done here.”
Sandy Sage became choked with emotion when he recalled pleasant memories at Stroud Center.
“I always had a big smile on my face when I knew I was coming out here,” Sandy said, adding that whenever he needed a place to think he would find an excuse to venture into the “muddy fields by the streams.”
Sage expressed his deepest thanks to the Hayward family. He also thanked his children for taking the time to travel from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. to attend the dedication ceremony.
Afterwards, during a luncheon for the guests, Sweeney gave a slide presentation of pictures taken when Sage was head of the Academy of Natural Science’s Benedict Estuarine Research Laboratory in Benedict, Md. Many of these served as a tongue-in-cheek roasting, at Sandy’s good-natured expense. One slide included a rather contrived explanation of how Sage acquired the nickname “Sandy.”
Sweeney showed a photo of a mocked-up sign that had been concocted many years ago when Sandy was his boss and was making a site visit to the Stroud Center. He posted the sign along the creek right outside the Stroud Center. It designated a section of stream as “Sage Run.” The sign read, in part: “… It is fact (and now legend) that the first benthic sample [of stream critters] taken by the doctor netted only sand and no biological specimens. A companion on site […] recorded the events on film and memory and immediately suggested that the doctor change his name from Louis to Sandy in commemoration of his first sample.”
Sage retired in 2007 from his position as executive director of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.