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SNR bird feeders commemorate student’s life, passion
Without a doubt, Brian Smith loved birds.
“He got into birds working for us,” said Dave Titterington, owner of Wild Bird Habitat Store in Lincoln. “He really got into birds.”
Dave and his wife Linda recalled that Smith was a dedicated employee who had worked at their store for more than a year.
“He was fantastic,” they said. “He was a hard worker. He was one who if we needed somebody and it didn’t interfere with school, he’d be there.”
Smith’s interest in birds led the freshman fisheries and wildlife major all the way to Puerto Rico for a study abroad trip in March 2008.
While there, students visited a tropical rainforest, swam on coral reefs, visited caves and learned about the island’s many ecosystems.
Larkin Powell, professor of conservation biology and wildlife ecology, led the trip with Mark Pegg, fisheries ecologist and associate professor in the School of Natural Resources.
“It’s a trip that quickly gets students into new systems that are nothing like Nebraska, but the same ecological principles apply,” Powell said.
Two days into the trip, Smith suddenly passed away from an undiagnosed heart defect. He was just 20 years old.
“I had not had him in classes, but he already impressed me as a student eager to learn and see new things,” Powell said. “He had a lot of energy and unclouded enthusiasm.”
Prior to the trip, Smith had begun attending UNL Wildlife Club meetings. The club’s annual banquet took place a few weeks later and members wanted to commemorate Smith in some way.
“The club now has a student achievement award in Brian’s name,” Powell said.
The Titteringtons, Smith’s parents, fellow students, professors and friends planned fundraisers to create the Brian M. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund. The endowed fund through the NU Foundation helps students attend the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“We did some fundraising at the store,” Dave said. “We made a donation with the money that we collected and a donation from Wild Bird Habitat.”
But the Titteringtons’ generosity didn’t stop there. They also donated two bird feeders to the School of Natural Resources, which were dedicated in Smith’s honor. The feeders are located north of Hardin Hall.
“They continue to provide bird seed for free in memory of Brian,” Powell said. “I’m not sure how much money this has been over the years, but it is not chump change.”
Mary Bomberger Brown, research assistant professor, keeps the feeders filled and stops by the Titteringtons’ store whenever the bird seed supply gets low. She shares the task with the Wildlife Club.
Brown said that she’s seen more than 20 species of birds eating the seed from and spending time near the feeders.
“I like the idea that we’re keeping a ‘wild space’ near SNR, the idea of urban wildlife and the idea of remembering an SNR student,” Brown said.
When asked how much bird seed they’ve donated over the past six years, the Titteringtons said they didn’t know a specific figure.
“That’s kind of a hard question,” Linda said.
“I would think probably over 500 pounds,” Dave added.
For the Titteringtons, those kinds of things just don’t matter. What matters is Smith’s memory – and keeping that alive and well.
“If something ever happens to the bird feeders, we’ll repair them and if we can’t repair them, we’ll replace them,” Dave said. “As long as I’ve got the business, this is perpetual.”