For Edie Barvin ’84 and her 7-year-old son Austin, Trojan Island Adventure opened up a whole new world of discoveries about science and the environment, about family vacations and about themselves.
TWENTY-SIX MILES OFF THE COAST OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA is the island of Santa Catalina, a place of pristine landscapes and turquoise waters, a place I – a coastal California native – have visited only twice. I have looked at it longingly on clear days and thought, “I’ve got to get back there; I’ve got to take my son there.”

Craggy hills, dotted with bushes and wild grass, descend to the clear blue waters off Catalina.

The thought brings up the dilemma that has been looming in the back of my mind all month, the dilemma faced yearly by families every summer, everywhere. The family vacation. The condensation of childhood memories, high expectations, compressed time and the desire for peaceful coexistence between persons who may share the same blood type but possibly not the same tastes or personalities. It’s a tough gig to plan.
Throw into the mix doing it on your own as a single parent, and it seems too stressful to be called fun. My 7-year-old son Austin and I wanted camping and nature this year, but I wanted to be hiking and exploring with him – not spending countless pre-trip hours making sure we would survive in the wilderness, then setting up camp and trying to entertain, serve and protect once we got there. I wanted a vacation too.
In my fantasy of a family summer vacation, I see just the two of us for four or five days. But by now I know my limitations. I

Rebecca Bauman, 11, of San Dimas, Calif., holds a giant spined star plucked from Wrigley’s touch-tank.

need a break once in a while, a little time to myself and some adult conversation. And let’s be honest, no 7-year-old wants to hang out with just his mom for all that time, no matter how wonderful she is.
I’d looked into some of the family vacation offerings, the Club Meds and the dude ranches, but I, like a lot of single parents, worried that these places would be filled with traditional families – married couples with children – and that somehow we would be the odd men out. So when the brochure for the first-ever Trojan Island Adventure family camp at Catalina arrived in the mail, I knew we’d found our summer vacation. Not only did it invite “kids, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles” to participate; it promised educational and exploratory activities that are hard to organize on one’s own. Plus I figured these would be USC alums – people I’ve seen at football games, possibly had classes with.
My son was all over the idea of snorkeling, nature hikes and all of the sea and land creatures we would encounter on Catalina. I was excited about the newly renovated dormitories with private baths and the fact that someone else would be cooking all the meals for a change. It sounded like a place where we could get muddy, dirty, salty and sandy, then get cleaned up and stay that way at least until the next morning. The educational focus of the camp sealed the deal.

Mike Talbot JD ’71, of Newport Beach, Calif.

A BRAINCHILD-BY-COMMITTEE, Trojan Island Adventure was conceived by Morton Schapiro, former dean of USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Jane Pisano, USC senior vice president for external relations, and brought to life by Tony Michaels, director of USC’s Wrigley Institute for Envi-ronmental Studies, and Judith Blumenthal, associate vice president for alumni relations, working with volunteer leaders of the USC Alumni Association.
The institute, Michaels says, was looking for ways to broaden its environmental science mission, which stresses the interaction between humans and the environment.
“When we took on that mission, we had a new obligation to make sure our science was understandable and usable by society,” he says. “This meant broadening our education mission to ‘K-through-gray.’”
Around the same time, the USC Alumni Association was re-examining its own mission and working to expand alumni program offerings, particularly educational ones. Blumen-thal was also looking for ways to involve younger alumni, many of whom had small children and were looking for affordable family activities. For his part, Michaels couldn’t help noticing that whenever the Wrigley Institute held one of its open houses, the most enthusiastic visitors were families.

8-year-old Michael Stumpf of San Pedro, Calif., bobs alongside a rowboat after a snorkeling expedition.

The two needs dove-tailed, resulting in a family science camp.
Perched on a hill overlooking Big Fisherman’s Cove at the isthmus on Catalina, the Wrigley Institute has been a USC research facility since Philip K. Wrigley – the son of chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. – deeded a dozen acres to the university to develop the Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center in the early 1960s. In 1995, a gift from Philip Wrigley’s son, William, established the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, a state-of-the-art lab and teaching facility run by the College.
“This is one of the few full-service island marine labs in the United States, and the only one on the West Coast between Puget Sound and the Galápagos Islands,” says Michaels, who is an associate professor of biology in the college.
By full-service, he means that any scientist from anywhere in the world can
arrange to use the facility, which provides a modern infrastructure to support research. The institute is one of only six such facilities located near the “deep ocean” off the continental shelf.
Scientists aren’t the only ones who benefit. Open to USC alumni and donors to the Wrigley Institute, the Trojan Island Adventure camp allows for many segments of society to experience science first-hand, and to enjoy the relatively untouched natural resources of Catalina.
Ann Close, the Wrigley Institute’s associate director for education and outreach, was thrilled with the diversity of people participating in the camp’s first year. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “Single moms, single dads, grandparents with their grandkids, easy kids, hard kids, folks who already knew what plankton are and some who didn’t know a sea urchin from a sea otter.”

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FROM LEFT: A playful group of dolphins, an unspoiled shoreline and wildflowers are among the pleasures in store for Trojan Island campers. CENTER: Patrick Bien, 9, of Ridgecrest, Calif. RIGHT: Bob Bosnyak of San Jose, Calif., brought along plenty of aloha, as well as his wife Pamela Bell-Bosnyak MS ’86, and granddaughter Haley.

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“My son was all over the idea of snorkeling, nature hikes and all of the sea and land creatures we would encounter on Catalina. I was excited about the fact that someone else would be cooking all the meals for a change.”

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