Among the family and friends waiting anxiously for news of Steve Norwick's recovery are generations of Sonoma State University alumni who studied under the retired professor, many of whom have personal connections with their instructor that blur the line between teacher and friend.
The banjo-strumming, bike-riding, bearded environmental studies professor was an inspiring teacher, they say. But he was also their mentor, skilled adviser, kindly uncle and chum — one whose friendship and counsel persisted beyond their time at SSU.
Many embarked upon careers in water quality, conservation, land-use planning and related fields, maintaining ties with Norwick long after they left his classroom.
From inviting students away from home to share in his family holidays, to steering them toward internships or professional goals, to informing their ability to "read landscape" in a way they never experienced, to taking time to hear their concerns, scholastic and otherwise, Norwick, said one, has been "very supportive, always, and always available."
"He took a personal interest in each one of us, or at least it felt that way," said Paula Blaydes, a geologist and geothermal expert who was among Norwick's early students. "He made us all feel like he was personally involved in helping us with our choices."