Love and Passion for His Work Drives Biology Teacher

By Levin, Meta L. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Love and Passion for His Work Drives Biology Teacher


Levin, Meta L., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Meta L. Levin Daily Herald Correspondent

There are few clues in Jerry L. Hinkley's office of the curiosity, love of his profession and wanderlust that has taken him from walking amid thousands of chin strap penguins in Antarctica to a kaouri forest in New Zealand.

It all started with a teacher, a botany professor at Southern Illinois University, which is only fitting for a man to whom "teaching is fun."

Hinkley has been a biology instructor at the College of Lake County for 26 years. For his interest in science, he credits Robert Mohlenbrock, whom Hinkley refers to as "my hero, my mentor and now my friend." Mohlenbrock, now retired, gave direction and energy to what then was just an interest in the young Hinkley. Mohlenbrock set him on the path that has followed.

That path recently led him to win the 1996 Two-Year College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), but it also has led him all over the world with his research and his cameras.

"Lucky is the man whose hobby is also his job," Hinkley said.

Hinkley began college with an interest in science and a major in music.

"That lasted about two weeks," he said. "Then I was a PE major for about two weeks, but science was always in the front row."

It may have been in the front row, but Hinkley wasn't planning on science as a major, so his math skills left something to be desired.

"With math I had to start at ground zero," he said.

Hinkley persevered and ended up with a bachelor's degree in botany, with a minor in zoology, and a master's degree in botany-plant taxonomy or classification, although it is hard to imagine the exuberant Hinkley sitting still long enough to classify anything. He has done postgraduate work at the University of Missouri, the University of Tennessee, the University of Minnesota, Indiana University and Hofstra University.

As an undergraduate under the influence of a botany professor who was an accomplished photographer, Hinkley picked up a camera, and life hasn't been the same since.

"My wife asked how much money I had tied up in camera equipment and I made the mistake of answering her," Hinkley said.

Photographing all the way, he has crossed Everglades National Park by canoe, backpacked along the Appalachian Trail, traveled among the giant sea turtles off the coast of Mexico, captured, tagged and released rattlesnakes in Illinois, and caught poison arrow frogs in the rain forests of Costa Rica and Equador. Hinkley has climbed mountains, traveled in the Amazon, snorkeled with sharks, seen lions in Africa, and done research on the flora of Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

Although his wife doesn't always share his passion for unusual vacation locales, she did have ample warning of his interests before they married, he notes. …

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