Karen E. Driscoll

Karen E. Driscoll

Donor Spotlight

Friends of Otter Rock create Karen E. Driscoll Memorial Scholarship

How do you honor someone who fully embraced a lifelong love of marine science, passionately and voluntarily  provided stewardship to the Pacific Ocean, marine reserve preservation and ecological education?  This is precisely the dilemma faced by the family of Karen E. Driscoll and her fellow Friends of Otter Rock.  They created a named scholarship at OCCC in her honor: the Karen E. Driscoll Memorial Scholarship benefitting an Aquarium Science student each year.

Karen Elizabeth Driscoll was born in Wellsville, NY and moved to Cleveland, Ohio as a youth.  Upon graduation from high school, Karen studied chemistry at Kent State University earning a BS degree then moved to Boston to work at Harvard Medical School.  It was while she lived in Boston that she met David Driscoll who became her husband of 27 years and father of their three children.

Eventually,  Karen and her family moved to Yamhill where she and David ran Driscoll’s Sheep Station for 15 years introducing the new breed of Finnsheep to the Pacific Northwest.   But it was her love of marine reserves preservation that brought Karen to Newport.

As her daughter, Erin Wisner remembers, “”From earliest memory, I always knew my mom was happiest at the beach.  Every trip East was to Cape Cod where we would walk the shoreline for hours scouring for the perfect horseshoe crabs, and every trip West from Yamhill included tide pooling.  I will never forget the special smile she had for rare finds. Her unbridled joy for the marine world paired with her inherent desire to educate has touched countless lives, I cannot imagine a better way for her to go on than with a legacy scholarship.”

“I first met Karen at the Otter Rock Marine Gardens during one of the CoastWatch community education events. She was working with Fawn Custer, a renowned educator of Marine Science. Karen brought her own “bag of tricks” to the party in the form of bones, exoskeletons, eggshells and other creature parts. She happily offered information to all visitors that would listen and eagerly guided them to the tide pools to point things out and explain what was going on,” explained Dennis White, Friends of Otter Rock member.

 “We met again when she was documenting activities of  bird nests at the Devil’s Punchbowl. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Over time and after multiple encounters, the range and depth of her dedication became clear to me. Here was a woman who in retirement decided to take on a whole new cause: understanding and protecting the fragile coastline and all the wildlife therein,” Dennis continues.

Marilyne Coblentz remembers Karen saying, “My family and I met Karen in 2015 when we all braved a very windy and wet day at Punchbowl State Park to talk to spring break visitors about gray whales. We were volunteers of the Oregon State Park Whale Watching Spoken Here program and soon discovered that our volunteer hours paled in comparison to all the activities that Karen participated in around the Newport area. Karen had just moved to Newport after nearly two decades as a Clinical Lab Scientist at Oregon Health Sciences University. Coastal living was the perfect fit for Karen’s love of marine science, a subject that had been her hobby for years when she took summer trips to Cape Cod.  She shared her love of learning with people of all ages.”

As Charlie Plybon, Director of the Surfrider Foundation reflects, “Karen enjoyed a real sense of wonder and humor about everything around her.”  Upon her death, Charlie created a memorial fund and photo gallery with contributions from local people who knew her. He turned the funds raised over to Friends of Otter Rock, which he knew would continue her work.

Family members, Dennis White and Erin Wisner decided to use the funds raised by Charlie to create the Karen E. Driscoll Memorial Scholarship after meeting Larry Boles  Director of the Aquarium Sciences Program and touring the building at OCCC.  The named scholarship honors Karen’s love for learning, her passion for marine science, and her desire to support students in pursuing their own love of learning in marine-related education for many years to come.

For more information on how to create a named scholarship in a loved one’s honor or how to leave a lasting legacy gift, contact Andi Spirtos at andrea.spirtos@oregoncoast.edu or call her at 541-867-8531.