On a beautiful summer day in June, friends, family, and colleagues gathered to honor the life of Dr. Michelle Marko, who passed away on Aug. 24, 2020. The dedication of the Michelle D. Marko Field Classroom took place at Concordia’s Long Lake Field Station.
After a warm introduction from President William Craft, Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Susan Larson, biology department chair Dr. D. Bryan Bishop, and Connor Haugrud ’21 each spoke to commemorate Marko and dedicate the station classroom to her.
Bishop recalled his first time meeting Marko while serving on a committee that worked to build the field station classroom in 2008.
“It’s through being on this committee that I first got to know Michelle, her commitment and passion to this place, and her sense of building community,” Bishop said. “From the start, she wanted this Long Lake Field Station to be part of the local community of Long Lake.”
It was this passion and kindness that made dedicating the classroom to Marko an easy decision. Haugrud recounted a story highlighting her kindness and character. He explained that he had contacted her last year about a nest of baby birds that had fallen out of a tree. Marko quickly responded, connecting Haugrud with a group of field scientists at Concordia, successfully saving the birds.
“Looking back on that moment, she didn’t have to do any of that. It was during COVID and not long after her brain surgery,” Haugrud said. “She had far bigger things to worry about than some birds 100 miles away from where she was, but she chose to care and assist me in the role of playing a vet.”
Haugrud was one of many students who was touched by Marko’s kindness. Peyton Lehman ’22, a student researcher at Long Lake for the past two summers, spoke to Marko’s involvement in student research.
“She loved going in the water with her waders,” Lehman said. “This was definitely her passion. She loved teaching.”
Larson echoed that same idea in her comments, noting her leadership as an educator.
“Dr. Michelle Marko represented the very best of the teacher-scholar model and exemplified what it meant to influence our Concordia students to influence the affairs of the world,” she said.
Most of all, though, she says Marko looked forward to sharing Long Lake with others in the community.
“She loved nothing more, I think, than being here and introducing people to this space,” she added.
Both Lehman and Kelly Lorenz ’23 are continuing to benefit from their introduction to Long Lake as they conduct small mammal research this summer. Their studies focus on recording numbers of voles, field mice, and any other critters they run into. The Concordia students were able to visit Itasca State Park earlier this year as a part of their research study through the college and will work at Long Lake until the end of July. The dedication ceremony ended with refreshments shared among the friends and colleagues outside on the picnic tables.