SUNY New Paltz alumnus and longtime director of research at Mohonk Preserve to receive honorary degree; speak at Undergraduate Commencement

PaulHuthThe State University of New York at New Paltz will award an honorary doctorate of science degree to alumnus Paul C. Huth ’72 ’79g, director of research emeritus/associate curator, Daniel Smiley Research Center, Mohonk Preserve, at the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, on the Old Main Quadrangle.

Huth will deliver the undergraduate commencement address after receiving the honorary degree, the highest honor that the State University of New York can bestow upon an individual and is approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

“A leader in his field and an exemplary alumnus, Paul has brought prestige to the Preserve’s program and, in turn, to SUNY New Paltz,” said President Donald P. Christian. “His incontrovertible success speaks to the rigor and depth of a New Paltz education and will continue to serve as an inspiration to current and future New Paltz students.”

Huth has been a part of the Mohonk Preserve ecosystem research program for 40 years. He served first as an assistant to founder Dan Smiley, and then as director of the program for 22 years. In 2011, Huth moved into the role of director of research emeritus/assistant curator at the Smiley Center.

As director, he managed a diverse research program consisting of the Smiley Center collections and archives (totaling some 60,000 items). He also oversaw an eight-decade-long ecosystem monitoring and database program, through which the Center made some 12,000 species observations each year. Huth also oversaw a Research Associate Program, which accommodated 58 researchers from 30 academic institutions around the country and a center for the dissemination of information to hundreds of academics, authors, students, reporters, historians, and area residents.

“[Huth] has used his keen observational skills, depth of scientific knowledge, and his understanding of the land and its people, to communicate regionally and globally the importance of events, changes, and stresses in nature over time, and make those findings available to partner institutions, government agencies, and public audiences,”  said Glenn D. Hoagland, executive director of the Mohonk Preserve. “Paul has mentored the conservationists of today and tomorrow – the next generation of good stewards and young scientists who will continue his legacy of conservation science. Working in one place, the Mohonk Preserve, almost his entire career, to monitor and analyze changes and constancy in its unique ecosystems, Paul best exemplifies the quote by Marcel Proust: ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’”

Huth is known both locally and nationally for his dedication and determination in observing and recording weather, water, fauna, and flora of the Mohonk Preserve. His daily measurements of the lake water, temperature, quality, precipitation, and ice coverage have created a record of weather unmatched by other programs. As Anthony DePalma wrote in the New York Times (Sept. 16, 2008), “Every day for the last 112 years, people have trekked up the same gray outcropping to dutifully record temperatures and weather conditions. In the process, they have compiled a remarkable data collection that has become a climatological treasure chest.”

“I’ve always said that at any institution of higher learning, you can come out with a degree and an education. But I found that New Paltz, especially, had very talented and giving faculty,” said Huth. “You stand anywhere on the New Paltz campus, you see the Shawangunks and Skytop Tower. I took advantage of that [as a student] – doing independent studies, going in the field with Carol Rietsma [emerita professor of biology]. You can come to the Ridge, or Minnewaska, or the Preserve, or the Mountain House, and you can experience things you can apply in college. I hope all the students can come to Mohonk, to the Preserve, to Minnewaska Park, and hike, climb, bike, whatever they’d like to do. It’s an enriching experience.”

Huth has published more than 100 articles in local and national professional scientific journals. He appears in the Marquis “Who’s Who in Science & Engineering.” In 2013, he received the Distinguished Environmental Achievement Award from Mohonk Consultations for “leading stewardship, conservation and collaborative research for the Shawangunk Mountains and beyond.” Also in 2013, Huth received the John Campanius Holm Award from the National Weather Service for “remarkably accurate daily weather records that span 32 years [that] are a valuable resource to the Nation’s climate program.”

In addition to his work at Mohonk, Huth served as president of the Klyne Esopus Museum, a local history museum housed in a former Dutch country church that was built in 1827 and is located in Ulster Park, N.Y. He served two terms on the Eastern New York Chapter Board of Trustees of the Nature Conservancy and was an at-large-member of the Environmental Management Council of Ulster County.