Professor teaches life lesson using geese


Professor of chemistry Lyle Peter spoke about the growth he has experienced because of the people in his life.
Andrew Haskell/THE FALCON


On Tuesday, SPU professor of chemistry Lyle Peter spoke to a crowd of roughly 35 students, faculty and staff about the lessons he has learned over the past 50 years of his life.

Speaking at the Ivy Honorary’s sixth annual Last Lecture event, Peter said that  he has spent the majority of his life teaching students and learning from the people in his life.During the lecture, he emphasized the lessons  he has learned from people, Scripture, and his observations of mallards and geese.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons; I didn’t realize I had learned so many until now,” the 1972 SPU alumnus said. “Embrace life with a grateful heart; accept God’s gifts… They are good and many.”

Based off of the book The Last Lecture, co-authored by Randy Pausch and Jeffery Zaslow, the Last Lecture series is an annual event put on through the Ivy Honorary and the Seattle Pacific Center for Learning as a way for professors to share what’s important to them and pass on their wisdom and advice.

A collegiate chapter of the National Mortar Board, the Ivy Honorary is a national honor society that recognizes service, leadership and academic performance.

Since SPU began hosting the lecture series in 2008, six professors have spoken at the event. Past speakers have included associate professor of biology Eric Long, professor of educational ministry Ed Smyth and associate professor of history Rod Stiling.

A professor at SPU for the past 35 years, Peter began his lecture by telling audience members about the influence his parents have played in his life.Peter explained that though his parents had grown up during the depression, they had triumphed over their families’ financial hardships and used the experience to thrive.

“Adverse personal origins don’t need to be determined,” Peter said. “Hard work, discipline and persistence matter… Caring for other people matters.”

Peter also said that he has learned lessons from his children, grandchildren and wife. In particular, he said that his four children have taught him about the importance of forging your own path and following your own unique calling.

His explained that while his eldest daughter, Annika, and youngest son, Elias, are working in science-related fields, his oldest son, Lukas, and his youngest daughter, Cara, have pursued careers in other areas.

“If you can grow, you are willing to take risks,” Peters said.

Additionally, Peter explained the impact that the mallards and geese that roam around his yard have had in shaping his perspective on life.

“I’ve found that both kids live by different life philosophies,” Peter said. “For the geese, I call it silly philosophy, for the mallards, I call it quacker philosophy.”

He explained that the geese’s behavior is very different from a mallard’s. Unlike mallards, he said that ganders are extremely attentive and committed to their young. Because of this, he said that the goslings have a much lower mortality rate.

“I’d rather be the child of a silly than a quacker,” Peter said. “Faith communities and self-sacrificing parents raise well-functioning children.”

Peter finished his talk by talking about the significance of one of his favorite Bible verses, Matthew 6:33, which instructs readers to seek the kingdom of heaven before everything else.

“Embrace life with a grateful heart…  Kindness and generosity are more important than accomplishment,” Peter said.

At the end of this year, Peter plans to retire from SPU and move to Arizona with his wife, who will be teaching at Arizona State University.

“People ask me, ‘What are you going to do down there,’ ” Peter said. “And this is my answer… Whatever I want.”



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