Nathan Chronister, MS '96, Marianne Lavelle '55, Bob Sigurdsen '69

Birds of a Mechanical Feather

Nathan Chronister, MS '96

If myth could become man, Nathan Chronister MS'96 might well be Icarus, perfected, enlightened and made joyfully practical. Turning his lifelong fascination with bird and insect flight into an academic mission, he earned his master's degree in animal behavior. Since then, his attraction to animal flight has morphed into a career that would have captivated the likes of da Vinci and the ancient mythmakers: He creates ornithopiter kits, "mechanical birds that fly by flapping wings."

Chronister began his business of marketing ready-to-assemble ornithopiters in 2003 when marriage brought him to Rochester, N.Y. Always interested in education, he left behind a career at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development to hone a daring entrepreneurial venture - a cottage industry that now reaches an international market, inspiring scientists and hobbyists of all ages to consider the ecological benefits that we may glean through the study and eventual mimicry of animal flight.

While he produces small "bird-sized," kits, Chronister says that the potential for producing manned aircraft with flapping wings is not just fantasy. A manned ornithopiter could "hover and land in small areas and will save fuel, when compared with helicopters."

It is extremely unlikely however, that human energy will provide the sustained power needed for this endeavor. An engine of some variety will have to keep jumbo ornithopiters aloft and flapping. Chronister's rubberband powered prototype, in principle, may provide a model for a new age of biologically inspired aircraft, and this is good news for a world in search of technologies with a green edge.

Chronister's website, Ornithopiter Zone (www.ornithopiter.org), not only features his unique designs but also provides a rich history of the human desire to imitate nature's airborne creatures. In order to share ideas with others interested in this type of experimentation, he also publishes a newsletter, Flapping Wings, bringing together a global community of ornithopiter enthusiasts. - Maria Jacketti

 

Truly Golden Years

Marianne LavelleMarianne Shutack Lavelle '55 has had a lot to celebrate with the 50th anniversaries of both her marriage and her career in recent months. On June 13, Lavelle was honored by her Carbon County (Pa.) bar colleagues for 50 years of service. She was the first woman to join the county's bar in 1959 and continued to be the sole practicing female attorney there for the next 20 years.

"I never thought of it as being a particularly big challenge for a woman. My dad never told me I couldn't or shouldn't be a lawyer," says Lavelle. "His encouragement was reinforced by my professors at Bucknell."

At Bucknell, Lavelle found "fertile grounds" for her developing mind. Her professors encouraged her interests not only in her English and math majors, but also in debating and political science. "No one ever told me I couldn't do that because I was a woman. I was given equal importance to the men," she says of her time at Bucknell. She was a member of Debating Club, Cap and Dagger, the Dance Company, The Bucknellian and Politics Club, among others

The longtime Lehighton resident went on to Villanova Law School, where she met her husband, John. Upon graduation the couple married and joined her father's law firm, Shutack, Lavelle and Lavelle, where Marianne still practices today. During his career, John became the Carbon County president judge, which meant she couldn't try her cases in front of him. "I had to cart my clients to other counties for a few years," she says.

Balancing the law firm and pro bono work for auxiliaries and municipal authorities, Lavelle also made time for family. "In the process, I raised four children of whom I am very proud," she says.

Since leaving litigation behind her, Lavelle inspired and motivated by a small county general practice, concentrating on estate law, elder law, powers of attorney and real estate. Her workdays also include quality time with her husband and youngest son, who both have joined her firm.

As for retirement? "Not at all," she says. "My dad taught me one important thing - retirement should never be part of your vocabulary." - Julie Dreese

 

This Must Be Some Kind of Record!

Bob Sigurdsen

This October, Bob Sigurdsen '69 will attend his 45th consecutive Bucknell Homecoming and football game. Sigurdsen, who graduated with a B.S. degree in business administration, translated his knowledge into creating a successful homebuilding company, Woodshire Homes, Ltd. in his native Rochester, N.Y. Yet, Bucknell is his true second place of the heart, with the events of Homecoming re-energizing many positive memories and treasured friendships. "Bucknell in the fall," he says, "is especially beautiful. A lot of my old friends from college come back."

A National Merit Scholarship recipient, Sigurdsen was a member of the original group that re-established the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity in 1968. He recalls his academic program as one that allowed him to become a fully rounded individual, giving him the opportunity to take an array of enriching electives, including foreign languages. In addition, he says, "One of my major attractions to Bucknell was the open space." He sees the campus' integration with nature as conducive to learning and hopes the University will preserve the green and blossoming atmosphere that evokes its distinctive "sense of place." This, he says, contributes to creating a balanced college experience, harmonizing academics, camaraderie and a nurturing connection with Pennsylvania's natural beauty.

While some aspects of Homecoming have changed over the years, tradition is still the magnet that beckons alumni to return. In 1979, a fraternity dinner banquet began, and for 31 years, a local restaurant has hosted the festivities.

Sigurdsen looks forward to many more homecomings. If he had to do it all over again, he would change nothing - except perhaps "to study a little harder." With such enthusiasm, Sigurdsen can make anyone believe that "the clock turns back and the years melt away," when all elements come together to conjure Homecoming's perennial magic.

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