I had the good fortune of having Karl Havens with me for dinner last Thursday night. I got to tell him what a great scientist and leader I thought he was.
Within 24 hours of that conversation, he was gone. It’s a huge loss to his family, his professional colleagues, and the entire state of Florida.
That last dinner at an Italian restaurant in Coral Springs was typical of the encounters many of us have had with Karl. While others commiserated about the monotony of the Florida Turnpike and the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Gainesville, Karl talked excitedly about how he had stopped along the way to go hiking in Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
If you knew Karl, you know what happened next. Out came the iPhone. He shared professional quality photos. He talked with a scientist’s habit for identification of what he’d seen, and with no small tone of amazement at how close he was able to get to the dying embers of a prescribed burn at the park.
This was so Karl – stopping to smell the (charred) roses along the way, the delight in sharing what was on his mind, and giving us a glimpse of how he saw the world through his camera’s eye.
Karl’s passing is a startling reminder that all of us will be with this organization for a finite time. It’s a reminder that we may not have the luxury of waiting for the “right time” to tell others how valuable they are to the cause of science.
Whether you’re an employee, a stakeholder, a research partner, a donor, or other valued friend of IFAS, thank you for your support of what binds us together as a community. We share a drive to understand our world through science, and to share that science to make the world a better place.
Since 2007, Karl led Florida Sea Grant. This has put him at the center of some of the state’s most pressing environmental issues. So it made perfect sense when Karl visited my office a few months ago to ask for my support to establish a UF/IFAS Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force.
It’s not fair that Karl was taken from us. That’s our emotional response. Science won’t make this less painful.
When headlines report progress and the politicians hail milestones in restoring the health of our waters, we’ll know Karl played an important role. In that way, science will help us remember a man lost too soon.