Press Releases

October 22, 2004

Flag Flies Over Capital in Honor Former Southampton College Professor

Amanda Olsen (

Southampton, NY –Southampton College was not the only organization honoring John “Ral” Welker at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead this past Thursday. Not only did he receive the 2004 Long Island University Environmental Leadership Award for his life-long commitment to the College and its Marine Science program, but Congressman Tim Bishop, represented by his wife Kathy Bishop, extended him the supreme distinction of flying a flag over the capital in Welker’s name. Ed Britt, a Southampton village trustee, also read a proclamation of praise from the town, heralding Welker’s accomplishments and influence at the College and in the community as a whole.

Other accolades came in the form of a beautiful documentary-style tribute video by Alum Alan Braveman and current Southampton College Student Derek Barbanti and a myriad of testimonials, including those from alums Catherine Ellis of the Mystic Aquarium, Greg Garland, who manages his own business Sensoryphile, and Joe Yaiullo, co-founder of Atlantis.

A marine ecologist, Welker came to Southampton in 1965 from the University of Washington; he made the trip from Seattle by car in just four days. Welker was one of a small contingent of biologists with marine science training that was hired to develop a marine science program for the College.

And develop it he did. Over the years, Welker’s leadership and vision helped the now renowned program in marine science to grow and prosper into one of the top ten in the nation. Under his watchful eye, the on-campus marine station evolved from a single laboratory into the comprehensive and highly professional aquaculture facility it is today.

Dr. Welker retired in 1993, having earned the admiration of his students and colleagues at the College, as well as the respect of the entire East End community.  His life’s work has made a tremendous impact on preserving the surrounding beautiful yet fragile environment.  His genuine and caring demeanor and his extraordinary contributions to the marine science program clearly prove him to be a worthy recipient of the Long Island Environmental Award.


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