Barb Schulz - A lifetime of adventure, science, and horses


Last updated 11/8/2022 at Noon

Barb Schulz at Fred Hutch Research Center & Dr. Beverly Torok Storb. PHOTO PROVIDED

Early on, Barb Schulz knew science would be a part of her life. At 80 years old, she’s still active, inquisitive, and happy to share what she’s learned.

Getting started in the sciences proved a challenge. In 1963, she applied to veterinary school but was rejected; not because she wasn’t smart enough, but because she was female.

“I applied at the University of Illinois and was told they’d never admitted a woman and weren’t going to start with me,” she recalled.

That theme of gender discrimination was common — especially in science. But Schulz took her frustration and channeled it in another direction. Roadblocks for Schulz just meant she had to jump higher; her life is a testimony to her tenacious personality and desire to challenge.

After veterinarian school was off the table, Schulz got her teaching credential, and spent many years as a science teacher. She had a principal’s credential and a master’s in science education, but preferred teaching science over “policing” students. After teaching for a year, Schulz knew if she didn’t get out of Illinois soon, she never would.

“I took a job in Newport, Rhode Island, and finally got out of Dodge! During the summer I was the nature specialist at the Harold Tribune Fund Fresh Air Camp for delinquent kids in middle school and high school.

It was either camp or jail,” said Schulz.

“There was a lake with the girls’ camp on one side and boys on the other.

I was a nature specialist, and this camp counselor who was teaching the oldest, toughest guys kept signing up for my nature class… that turned out to be my future husband, Wally.

We’ve been married for 56 years.

When Wally and I met, we were both engaged.

But eventually we were able to start dating.

Wally and I moved to the West Coast after he got a job at Boeing.

I started teaching in the Shoreline School District and stayed for 38 years.”

Being the only woman teaching science at the new Shoreline High School in the Shoreline District, once again Schulz had to advocate for herself or end up being disrespected by her colleagues.

“I had a staff of nine men and was the department chair. I had to remind them often that I wasn’t their damn secretary, and they could make the coffee in the morning not me. I taught biology, botany, environmental studies, physical science, and independent research. The kids liked having a female teacher even though I was tougher than most,” said Schulz with a chuckle.

In 1984, Barb and Wally drove down to the Los Angeles Olympics.

One of their stops was Black Butte Ranch — and they were immediately smitten.

They bought a place at the Ranch and vacationed there until they moved full-time in 2005.

By then, Schulz was retired from teaching, but continued a collaboration at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center (The Hutch), where she had a research lab for students called BioLab.

After developing an elementary school science program for the Shoreline School District, Schulz was introduced a research scientist Dr.

Nancy Hutchinson at The Hutch.

After touring the science program, the two became friends and formed the Science Education partnership program.

“Dr. Hutchinson became the director, and I became the teacher trainer. The program, designed to train teachers in the latest research technology, has been going for the last 25 years, and is still going great,” said Schulz.

Schulz invited Dr. Beverly Torok Storb, a faculty member of The Hutch, to give a talk at the first Science Fair at Sisters High School, which was sponsored by the Sisters Science Club.

“Afterwards Dr. Beverly invited us to bring Sisters students to her lab. A few weeks later, Rima Givot (biology teacher at Sisters High School ), and I took ten biology students up to The Hutch. It was mindboggling for these kids. They spent from 8 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, doing real technical lab activities like extracting DNA doing gel electrophoresis, using data from their experiments to solve a simulated problem.”

The SHS Hutch trips are in their 10th year.

Schulz prefers having four or five things going at once. She loves volunteering for Seed to Table (S2T), harvesting, weeding, and consulting about farm-based learning.

“The Science Club helped Audrey Tehan get started,” she said. “When Audrey came to the Science Club and did a presentation, she told us she needed a motorized hand tiller. I told her what she was doing was right down my alley and I’d help her one day per week. That was 2013. Until COVID hit I spent every Wednesday with the crew. In 2018 S2T became a nonprofit. Audrey asked me to be on the board. Since then, it’s grown like crazy. I’ve been on the board the whole time but will be stepping down this year. Now I can get back to helping Audrey digging in the dirt. I’ll be there when they need help. Maybe harvesting on Tuesdays or tying up trellises for the beans.”

With her science background, Schulz helped establish S2T’s education program.

“I enjoyed helping develop and evaluate programming… that’s my thing and a highlight of my time as a volunteer. It’s all about scope and sequence that can challenge students and provide questioning puzzles for students to solve at different levels,” said Schulz.

While she was harvesting or pulling weeds, Schulz loved getting silly with the farm crew.

“We had fun playing with the veggies,” she said, laughing. “One season, I pulled a five-pound turnip out of the ground — that was funny. Audrey even came up with the hashtag… ‘Be Like Barb.’”

One topic of conversation on the farm was Schulz’s four field seasons in Antarctica, camping on the ice.

“That was fun to talk about as we were harvesting,” Schulz said. “The Antarctic field season is their summer, from November through March. I had the coolest project doing water-quality studies with my Seattle students in a bog about half-mile away down a steep hill by I-5 that flowed into Lake Washington. We tested pH, oxygen content, and fecal coliform bacteria, and phosphorous.”

Because of the research with her students, the Society for Experimental Biology called and asked if they could nominate her to go to Antarctica. Schulz agreed.

“We were in tents, and it was really windy,” she recalled.

“We were in the Transantarctic Mountains doing water-quality studies.

Lakes there have been covered with four meters of fluctuating ice depth for 10,000 years.

Under that ice there’s no movement of water, so all the elements in it are stratified.

It was a hoot! When I was in Antarctica, I had contact with my Shoreline students.

I asked them what kind of experiment I should do.

They designed an experiment, and I did it.

It was awesome.

We were looking at the biochemical carbon demand of the largest predator in the lake, which was microscopic.

In the austral winter they are frozen solid for four months and when the sun comes out and the water melts along the edge, they pop back to life and start functioning.”

When Schulz isn’t volunteering on the farm, she’s riding her Morgan/Friesian dressage horse named Logan. She started riding in her 30s, competing in three-day eventing, which is like an equestrian triathlon.

At 72, Schulz purchased the sweet Moresian (Morgan/Friesian cross) who, unlike her former horse, wanted to please.

“Logan is like a golden retriever puppy,” Schulz said. “We’re training for fourth-level dressage. We earned our bronze medal a year ago. Dressage is kind of like ice skating, where you do certain things at certain spots. My goal when I got Logan was to earn the bronze medal. Now I have a new goal to earn my silver medal. It helps keep one’s older, aging body supple. I’m not even the oldest one at my barn. Everyone cheers each other on.”


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