A Chance Encounter on the Way to Antarctica
Stetson University alum Maureen Breakiron-Evans was waiting to board a ship from the southern tip of South America to Antarctica, when a man from her tour company offered to carry her bag aboard.
As they walked up the gangplank, she noticed he wore a Stetson ball cap.
“I asked him, ‘What is your connection to Stetson?’ And he said, ‘I’m a proud graduate of 1968.’
“And I said, ‘I’m a proud graduate of 1976 and I’m vice chairman of the Board of Trustees,’” recalled Breakiron-Evans, Accounting ’76.
T. H. Baughman, History ’68, was the history lecturer aboard the three-week expedition cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica. Baughman, Ph.D., is a professor of history at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and has been hired for more than 30 expedition cruises to Antarctica. He’s written four books on its history.
“He was an absolutely spellbinding storyteller of the polar explorers,” said Breakiron-Evans, who was taking her second trip to Antarctica over the Christmas holiday with her husband and their two grown children.
A photo taken on New Year’s Day 2017 shows Breakiron-Evans and Baughman at Wilhelmina Bay in Antarctica. “Surely Stetson has now been well represented in all seven continents!” she wrote in an email. Click here to see more of her photos from her trip.
For Baughman, it wasn’t the first time that he’s bumped into a Stetson alum on the way to the White Continent.
His best story, he said, happened in 1997 when he was history lecturer aboard a cruise. He was climbing down steps in the ship – wearing his Stetson sweatshirt – when a male passenger asked if he’d gone to Stetson.
When Baughman said yes, the passenger said he graduated in 1968 – “which was my class,” Baughman recalled, still sounding surprised. “We had 350 people (in the graduating class) … and we didn’t know each other.”
Two days later, he and the passenger were talking in the ship’s lounge when the man pointed to a woman standing not far away. She, too, had graduated from Stetson in 1968.
“The three of us were on the same ship in the middle of nowhere, going to Antarctica, and none of us knew each other,” he said. “To me, that was the baffling part. … There were probably 1,600 people in the college (back then). You really knew people.”
The stories show how small the world has become, said Breakiron-Evans, a retired CFO for a global professional-services firm. She has bumped into people she knows in the airport in Amsterdam and a museum in Paris. On a tour to China, she and her husband discovered another couple had children who attended the same school as their own.
“I always find in all my travels around the world, it’s a very small world,” she said recently, just days before leaving on a trip to India.
On his world travels, Baughman often wears something from his alma mater, whether a Stetson cap, sweater or sweatshirt, he said.
“I was very fortunate. I was the first person in my family to go to college, the second to graduate from high school,” he explained. “When I arrived there (at Stetson), my mother didn’t know you had to buy the books. … I got a great education at Stetson. I have fond memories.”
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