Dr. Peter R. Betzer Honored for His Visionary Leadershipby Former Representative C. W. Bill Young
Posted on 2013-02-04
in the house of representatives
Monday, February 4, 2013
Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise to join the leaders of the
science and education community of the Tampa Bay area who are honoring
Dr. Peter R. Betzer of St. Petersburg, Florida this Saturday with the
2013 ARCS STEM Visionary Catalyst Award for his life-long work to
inspire generations of students to pursue the study of science,
technology, engineering and math, STEM.
There is no more appropriate award with which to honor Peter than one that pays tribute to his vision because he has brought vision and strong leadership to every area in which he has been involved over the more than 40 years he has lived and worked in our community.
Peter found his way to St. Petersburg in 1971 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island. He taught chemical oceanography at the University of South Florida's Department of Marine Science. By 1982 he became Chairman of the Department and in 2000 he was named Dean of the newly established College of Marine Science. I still remember my first meetings with Peter as the Department and College grew. We agreed at the time that we would do all we could to make the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg a world-class center for the study of marine science. With Peter's vision and his passion we have done just that.
Under Peter's guidance, the College became an important partner of the United States Navy in developing systems to protect our nation's ports and waterways as well as those of our allies. The technology and systems developed there have proven extremely useful to our nation's homeland and environmental security agencies. These include an underwater mass spectrometer and an underwater mapping system that have created tremendous commercial opportunities and were critical to monitoring the impact of oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The development of these systems only enhanced the growth of the University's reputation as a world-class center for the study of marine science, and strengthened Peter's efforts to bring other agencies and businesses to St. Petersburg: this to create a true marine science hub in the southeast U.S. Together, the community developed an innovative plan to bring the United States Geological Survey to campus and established an office of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in downtown St. Petersburg. Along with the city, we developed a public/ private partnership to bring the world-renowned SRI International to the port and to bring nearby a new division of Draper Labs. Peter was at the center as the architect of all these developments. With each one, the opportunities to study the sciences grew along with the interests of local, national and international students.
It is Dr. Peter Betzer's ability to provide the vision and act as the catalyst that the ARCS Foundation, which stands for Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, will be honoring at a dinner to raise funds to support Tampa Bay area students pursuing the study of science, technology, engineering and math.
As a leader in Marine Science education at the University of South Florida, Peter recognized early-on the importance of promoting the broad spectrum of STEM to USF's students. Back in the early 1990's, a bright marine science student named Mike Morris started with an idea born of studying ocean chemical processes and created a company worth tens of millions of dollars in a few short years-- [[Page E89]] Ocean Optics. Peter is quick to recognize that the success took a team led by Mike Morris, but it would not have happened if not for Peter's leadership, mentorship and behind-the-scenes support.
In the world of business, Ocean Optics was just the beginning. Other companies, like Claro Scientific, came to St. Petersburg because of Peter's efforts. And, Peter's behind-the-scenes support for the ``STEM- business'' connection was ultimately a deciding element in both SRI International's and Draper Lab's decisions to locate in St. Petersburg. Those organizations brought dozens of high-paying knowledge jobs to the region and thus helped to establish an emerging regional technology cluster.
While Peter has always understood the importance of developing new businesses, for him an emphasis on education has been his highest priority. While leading the world-class ocean research programs at the College of Marine Science, Peter spearheaded the creation of the Oceanography Camp for Girls to inspire them to consider career opportunities in the sciences, with nearly 1000 ``teenaged scientists'' attending the camp so far. He also established a marine science-based remote learning program which televises informative middle-school marine science lessons across the country reaching tens of thousands more.
When Peter retired from academic life, he decided to push the throttle further forward. Leading the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership as its President and CEO, Peter continued to perform miracles. From providing vision for the downtown waterfront, to making international connections with world-class groups such as Cousteau Divers to securing businesses like LumaStream for St. Petersburg, his many accomplishments seem to have no end. Most noteworthy is Peter's passionate championing of the SunBay Digital Math program for Pinellas County middle schools. The SunBay math program, through a collaborative partnership of SRI International and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, has positively impacted more than 2500 students by enhancing their understanding of the principles of algebra--a crucial element in the future success of anyone in a STEM-related career.
Mr. Speaker, at a time when this Congress and our nation are doing all we can to encourage our youth to consider careers in math and science, let there be no doubt of Dr. Peter Betzer's life-long passion in this regard. For Peter, it has been a multiplier effect as the students he has inspired throughout his career have in turn passed along Peter's passion to their students and coworkers to bring more interest and more focus to STEM education and careers. There is clearly no one more deserving of the ARCS STEM Visionary Catalyst Award than Dr. Peter Betzer and I am proud to say to him thank you for a job well done.