In a previous life he might have been the cave man who made the first wheel, a court jester to an imperial monarch, a traveling minstrel, heretic hung for asserting the earth wasn’t flat, a major Vaudeville attraction or Rock Star; but in this life he’s channeled all of those talents into being Dan Pascucci or Dan the Watershed Man or Mr. D the Seastar (never a star fish.) Hosting a formal event he’ll don tux, green tennis shoes and a Soupy Sales bow tie. Never one to be at a loss for words when Pascucci received a phone call informing him that he had been awarded the prestigious Jerry S. Dixon Award for excellence in environmental education he says he thought it was a parent of a camper he was waiting for, “I was outside and my phone rang and someone on the other end said he represented the Alaska Conservation Foundation and that he was pleased to let me know that I had won the award which I had no idea I had been nominated for, so yes I was speechless,” Dan told the Dispatch.
The nomination was masterminded by Natasha Ala of the Kenai Watershed Forum (KWF) board of directors and supported by hundreds of Dan’s fans and students whose lives he has touched since he came to the Peninsula. A graduate from Boston University with a major in advertising like Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate” Pascucci found himself wondering what to do with his life, “People thought it weird for a guy who loved the outdoors to do advertising, but the idea was to find ways to share important messages with people and my goal was never to sell soap but to learn effective ways to say things in a way that folks will remember them and be effected by them,” he said. And effective is certainly an adjective appropriate for the 34-year-old educational specialist at the KWF whose fan base includes many teachers, students and community members who appreciate his style of indoor and outdoor education.
Out of college Pascucci found an opportunity with the Student Conservation Assoc. to do an internship with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service education department and that is what brought him to Alaska, “I wanted to get someplace where I didn’t have any connections or know anyone to challenge myself by putting myself in a place where I had no spheres that I had ever been a part of. In Alaska I was able to create my own spheres all by myself,” said Pascucci. The spheres that led him to Anchorage recently to be honored at the Alaska Native Heritage Center where the Alaska Conservation Foundation presented him with the prestigious Dixon Award.
The award is named for Seward resident Jerry S. Dixon, who career as a smokejumper, ecologist and conservationist left a lasting impression on the Kenai Peninsula. “He was a teacher in Seward and was just like a magical, amazing guy who got his kids connected to their environment. The spirit of the award is one I’m definitely happy to be related with, but the better recognition for me comes when a student says hi to me in grocery store or I’m walking on the beach and someone starts singing the ‘Scat Song’ to me, it lights me up and reminds me how many great things there are to be connected to in this community and am passionately supporting a greater awareness of how fortunate we are to live in this place that’s called Alaska’s Playground. In Anchorage I told them I live on that playground and that’s where my community is and it’s not just a place to play, it’s a place to love and be connected to and it’s an honor for me to have the opportunity take that message to students and even a greater honor to be recognized for it. I don’t teach kids what to think, I teach them what to think about so that they can make informed decisions,” said Dan.