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MCC Shear Colbert Symposium “Growing the Future”

MARSHALLTOWN – Marshalltown Community College will host the Shear Colbert Symposium on the theme of “Growing the Future” with three speakers this spring. The lecture series was organized by Dr. Tom Colbert in 1984 with memorial funds for his predecessor, George Shear.

The Symposium will begin with the lecture “Planting the vision” with speaker Sally Wilson on Thursday, January 28, noon via Zoom. Wilson is a professor of Biology at MCC. She is also an Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener who has been gardening for over 50 years. She has helped to restore and maintain numerous prairie plantings, as well as herb and perennial gardens. Her capstone project for a recently completed MBA in Sustainability focused on Sustainable Landscaping on Multiple Iowa college campuses. Her presentation will summarize the findings of her research and will focus on best practices in sustainable campus beautification and creating a vision for the MCC campus in years to come.

On Thursday, February 25, the second lecture “Selecting, Planting and Caring for Trees in Central Iowa” will be presented by Mark Monroe. Monroe is a Mathematician, Computer Scientist and Engineer who is also an Iowa Master Gardener. After 20 years in engineering and information technology with Maytag Corporation, Mark changed careers to follow his love of teaching. For the last 16 years he has been teaching math and occasionally computer science for Iowa Valley Community College. Monroe has also occasionally taught evening courses for Buena Vista, DMACC and Simpson College. He became an Iowa Master Gardener seven years ago, and has focused mainly on native Iowa plants and trees. One of the presentations that truly influenced Monroe during his training as a master gardener was a native Iowa plant talk given by Jim Kessler (also making a Shear-Colbert presentation in March). Other strong influences include Monroe’s parents, who have been Larimar County Colorado master gardeners, providing expert tree health advice for over 20 years, and Iowa DNR tree health expert Tivon Feeley who is a phenomenal source of tree pathology information. Monroe and his wife Judy live in a century old home surrounded by mature oak, hickory, river birch and black walnut trees. They have three grown children and two amazing granddaughters.

The final speaker on March 25 is Jim Kessler. His lecture is entitledTallgrass Prairie Restoration: Restoring Biodiversity, Mind, Body, and Spirit.” Kessler currently teaches Environmental Biology and Introductory Biology at Iowa Valley Community College – Grinnell. He taught Biology at Newton High School from 1972 – 2005. Kessler and his wife Kathy have restored 30 acres to native habitat south of Grinnell. The property includes reconstructed prairie and restored wetlands, stream banks, oak savannas, and oak/hickory woodland. They have donated 27 acres of the restored habitats to the Bur Oak Land Trust in Iowa City for perpetual preservation and management. Kessler has shared presentations and workshops almost 100 times during the last 10 years about the importance of native plantings to pollinators, songbirds, other wildlife, and people. He has spoken at Iowa State University, Blank Park Zoo, the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, the Bur Oak Land Trust’s Prairie Preview in Iowa City, University of Iowa, University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Lynn County Garden Fair, the Siouxland Garden Show and to many community, conservation, environmental, and school groups in Iowa and other states including South Dakota, Illinois, and California.

“The Tallgrass Prairie Restoration and reconstruction journey has been a wonderful experience for our family. This lecture will explain how to prepare soil before planting; explore prairie seed sources and mixes; describe a variety of planting methods; compare the results of late fall, winter, and spring plantings; explain how to manage the prairie planting for success including prescribed fire and weed control,” commented Kessler. “Many pictures from our property will illustrate the process. I will show pictures of the amazing diversity of pollinators, songbirds, and other wildlife that move into quality prairie habitat. During the lecture I will describe how prairie reconstruction and prairie wetland restoration have positively impacted the emotional, physical, and spiritual health of our family. Detailed materials describing prairie reconstruction and restoration techniques will be made available to participants.”

The Shear Colbert Symposium lecture series was organized in 1984 by the late history professor Dr. Tom Colbert with memorial funds for his predecessor, George Shear.  All the lectures will be available via Zoom at or by phone: 312 626 6799 (Meeting ID: 997 7951 3980).

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