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Environmental mission lives on with scholarship

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image As the very first recipient of a SOBAC scholarship from its endowed fellowship at Florida Institute of Technology, Jayden Roberts (second from right) always will appear in the opening slot on the college’s endowment plaque held by Dr. George Maul (second

SOBAC continues the mission in the hands of a young scientist.


– While SOBAC, once one of the area’s strongest citizen environmental groups, was disbanded five years ago, its mission continues today in the hands of a young scientist.

Jayden Roberts, 28, a native of Missouri and a graduate student at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, has received the first scholarship generated by a SOBAC endowment created with funds remaining when the organization officially was disbanded in 2006.

Roberts, whose ambition is to become a marine research and teaching scientist on the university level, was awarded $1,150 to help further his studies at the Florida East Coast school where he currently is completing a Master’s Degree program.

Accompanied by his department head, Dr. George A. Maul, Roberts spoke to a group of former SOBAC members last week during a luncheon at Circles Restaurant, explaining his present research project looking at the potential impacts of invasive marine life species on native Florida ecosystems. Maul chairs the Marine and Environmental Systems department in the FIT College of Engineering.

The $25,000 endowment at FIT was set in motion several years ago when then-members of the Apollo Beach-based organization pondered over dispersal of some $21,000 in accumulated funds when the environmental group formally was being “decommissioned” under Florida law. Ultimately, the membership of Save Our Bays, Air and Canals (SOBAC) agreed to create the FIT endowment in order to support their comprehensive ecological concerns, member Jeanette Doyle said this week.
FIT, a small private post secondary institution located on the Atlantic Ocean, was chosen in part because of its major degree programs, including Environmental Science, Meteorology, Ocean Engineering and Oceanography.

With additional donations, the original SOBAC funding attained the $25,000 endowment level and then began producing monies from investment interest. It is the investment interest that is to be used to underwrite the ongoing scholarships, Doyle said.

Roberts, who grew up in a small Missouri community with a population of about 170, was graduated from Harrisburg High School, one of 36 in his senior class. He received his baccalaureate degree from another small school, Columbia College, a co-educational liberal arts institution in Columbia, Mo. And, acknowledging that he prefers the smaller facilities, elected to do his master’s work at FIT. It’s a sure route to “a good quality education,” he said.

He began working toward the master’s degree last fall and expects to complete it this year. Then, he said he wants to go on to earn a Ph. D to equip himself to join a college or university faculty. And while someday he well may be “Professor Roberts” , he indicated he always will prize being known as an “oceanographer.”

In expressing his appreciation for the SOBAC scholarship funds and for the endowment to FIT, Roberts noted that “I believe your mission to save our bays, air and waterways is vital to the health and security of a sustainable coexistence with our environment.”

Anyone who wishes to help swell the SOBAC FIT endowment and thereby support more scholarship awards to deserving students studying in the various disciplines at the school that is sending its graduates to careers in major federal agencies and national corporations, may contact Gretchen Sauerman, manager of foundation relations. Her email address is gsauerman@fit.edu and she can be reached by telephone at 321-674-6162.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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