COLUMBUS, Ind. — The paths taken by Taylor Shedd and Dave Pence to the University of Hawaii at Manoa are eerily similar for being separated by nearly four decades.
Shedd, an 18-year-old freshman, graduated from Columbus East High School in May and now is pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a marine biologist. Pence, his 55-year-old boss in the university’s scuba diving safety program, was among the first class of sophomores when East opened. He graduated in 1975.
Shedd began considering the University of Hawaii during his junior year in high school. Before visiting, he was encouraged by his swim coach, Dave Fribley, to connect with Pence, whom Fribley also had coached.
Upon meeting, the two discovered they both had graduated with honors in science. Moreover, Pence had worked at Seacamp, a marine science education facility in the Florida Keys, where Shedd had visited with his ocean science class from East.
When Pence learned that Shedd had decided to attend the University of Hawaii, he offered the incoming freshman a student assistantship in the dive office, which is responsible for training and tracking all of the research divers who work out of the university.
“Starting out, it’s some sweeping floors and filing papers, but he’s one of those guys who’s just excited for any experience he can get and was like, ‘Sure, that sounds fun,’” Pence said.
Shedd is one of a few freshmen to take the office’s scientific diver course. He quickly began diving with and assisting research groups studying everything from sea urchins to coral reefs.
Diving among eels, sea turtles and octopuses is a far cry from learning to scuba dive in Franklin Middle School’s pool, Shedd said.
He hopes to work in the dive office throughout college and eventually hopes to research whales. The goal is a common one among marine biologists, but Shedd said he thinks earning advanced diving certifications and “getting all this time under water” will help him to achieve the dream.
Shedd said he keeps a positive mental attitude to avoid feeling homesick.
Pence said he enjoys having another Hoosier around with whom he can share stories, especially about Columbus, East High and coach Fribley.
“Folks who aren’t from Indiana just don’t understand why you start thinking about how tall the corn is in July or why hearing Jim Neighbors sing ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ on Memorial Day weekend is such a big deal,” he said.
“Seeing so much of myself in Taylor is what Hawaiians call a ‘chicken skin moment.’ That just means goose bumps.
“It’s a lot of fun.”