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Prof At Danbury's WestConn To Curate Mentor's Herpetology Collection

Theodora Pinou, a professor of biological and environmental sciences at Western Connecticut State University, has been designated as the inaugural faculty curator of the H.G. Dowling Herpetological Collection.
Theodora Pinou, a professor of biological and environmental sciences at Western Connecticut State University, has been designated as the inaugural faculty curator of the H.G. Dowling Herpetological Collection. Photo Credit: Provided

DANBURY, Conn. — Theodora Pinou respected and envied the reputation of her adviser at New York University, where she was a doctoral student studying North American snakes.

She could not have known then that she would be the steward selected to preserve his research heritage for posterity.

When Herndon Dowling died this year, he left his extensive library of books, field notes, drawings and specimens to Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. Pinou, who is now a professor of biological and environmental sciences there, was designated as the inaugural faculty curator of the H.G. Dowling Herpetological Collection.

She will work with Western’s archivist, Brian Stevens, to not only organize the collection but also make it available to scholars.

Dowling had a broad interest in all reptiles and amphibians but his greatest contributions were in the resolution of generic relationships of snakes and his classification of the snakes of the world, according to a press release. The library of his life’s work contains specimens, field notes, drawings, photos, slides and the 500 books he purchased during his 50-year career.

Stevens said the Dowling library can be the first step in building a significant archive of scientific research at the university. 

“We can use it as a cornerstone,” he said in a press release. “The point of taking this on is to build on it, so a visit to that archive may not only lead you to something serendipitous but may also bring you back to explore something else.”

Pinou, the first in her family to attend college, was the last student Herndon guided through the doctoral process before he retired.

“He was the most influential person in my life,” she said in a press release. “He took me to meetings, he helped me write, I trusted his judgment, he was on my side. He invested tremendous energy and resources in his students, encouraged them, and stepped up when there were unexpected consequences. It had a great effect on me and influenced my view of the student-mentor relationship and collegiality."

Because of the university’s location, Pinou envisions scholars from throughout the eastern United States taking advantage of the collection, according to a press release.

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