BY DANIEL JANARO
SC STAFF WRITER
Imagine being an East Stroudsburg University student stepping out onto a bridge of suspended tires swaying far above the ground, or imagine climbing to the top of a tree and standing on a platform towering nearly 30 feet into the air, leaping onto a zipline and barreling back towards the soft Earth. While you’re up there, take a look out over the tops of the trees and the entirety of Stony Acres’ 119 acres of wildlife sanctuary. When the feelings of exihiliration have subsided, remember that this place belongs to you, a student of ESU. Before you go for your second ride down the line, or swing like a monkey on the ropes course, thank Madeline Constantine for the opportunity.
Madeline Constantine sits in her office helping two students make photocopies for a campus organization. Maddy, as she is known by students, coworkers and anyone else close to her, is the program director for Stony Acres, an off-campus recreational center for students of East Stroudsburg University (ESU) and the general public.
“Maddy’s a great person and you can truly tell she loves her job because she has an incredible amount of energy and knowledge,” said Ryan Roeber, an Environmental Studies major at ESU.
The name plaque on her office door is nearly obscured from the immense light shining through a set of adjacent windows.
“Are you here to see Maddy,” says one of the front desk secretaries. “She’s pretty popular.”
Her office is cluttered but neat, with plenty of papers and photos of mountains and lakes plastered over what seems to be every square inch of wall space. Directly out her office window, which overlooks Normal Street, crowds of students shuffle past. On this sunny day her office is dark and the industrial plant’s ominous tower, spewing smoke into the air, casts a large shadow. Maddy’s tale at ESU is one of a close bond to the place she calls home, a place she’s adopted, and where she watched her career and dreams take shape.
Maddy sits in her office chair, dressed in an unbuttoned plaid green shirt, jeans and what seems to be a pair of comfortable hiking boots. If meeting her for the first time, some may see her long, straight gray hair and earth-friendly attitude and dismiss her as a relic of some hippy-past. In actuality, the dark room almost makes her fair complexion after a long winter look tan and natural, more like Pocahontas; her gray hair not signifying age, but rather experience.
Born in Springfield, Virginia, Maddy spent her formidable years there up through high school until she decided to attend East Stroudsburg University in 1975 as an undergraduate in the school’s respectable Physical Education major, but eventually switched to Environmental Studies in which she received a degree in 1979.
“We did a lot of camping when I was a kid. My parents were pretty outdoors oriented,” said Maddy. “All our vacations were outdoors. I don’t think we ever stayed in hotels. And I always enjoyed the outdoors and played outdoor sports. I always thought I’d be a park ranger some day.”
Years before becoming program director for Stony Acres, Maddy received experience during college working for the regional park authority in Virginia, interning at the 1,000 acre Bull Run Regional Park. During her studies at ESU, Maddy was a work study student for Stony Acres where her responsibilities consisted of mowing grass, painting, and general maintenance. Since Maddy stayed in the Poconos during her winter and summer vacations, when Stony Acres’ caretaker took a holiday or a day off, Maddy was the first choice to fill the void.
“I got a call from the caretaker who said he got a new job and needed to leave in two weeks,” said Maddy. “He asked if I would fill in and I said yes. They did a job search for six months until I got the job.” Taking over Stony Acres, Maddy was instrumental in initiating the development of the site to what it resembles today.
“When I started, there was no ropes course, no lodge facilities – it was just the rustic cabin, the pond, and the caretaker’s house.”
Part of the growing of Stony Acres involved the building of the ropes course in 1982, which is the site’s biggest attraction. An outside company came in to build the course and Maddy was there to take part in the project, acting as a lackey on the ground and cooking for the workers.
“Yeah, I’ve climbed trees before,” when asked if she had experience working high up in trees. “But the last time I was in a tree, I fell out.” Maddy laughs, “I would love to learn to be a little safer.”
After the completion of the ropes course, Maddy attended instructional courses offered by the company that helped develop the ropes course to further her knowledge.
In 1984, a lodge that would house 60 people was built on the property. Maddy’s responsibilities now required her to take care of the new lodge and still perform her previous duties of mowing, painting and shoveling snow. Eventually the idea for hired help to take care of the grounds was proposed: “Don’t hire someone to mow the grass,” exclaims Maddy. “I like to mow the grass. Hire someone to clean the bathrooms!”
Today, work at Stony Acres is a little more relaxed – by Maddy’s standards. Program director Maddy handles all the bookings and day-to-day activities, including organizing all ESU student programs. Maddy is the head facilitator for Muddy Madness, paintball events, the ropes course, and even instructs outside groups.
Most people leave their work at the office, but Maddy’s work is so ingrained in her upbringing, when asked what some of her hobbies are outside of the environmental realm, one can see her family life and spare time are influenced by the outdoors.
“Other than the outdoors?” she hesitates. “Hobbies of mine include gardening, I love cross country skiing, which I have little time for; I was an avid outdoor climber; and I love camping.”
Maddy has reached a point in her life where the fruits of her labor are beginning to blossom. Her two children, a girl and boy aged 18 and 14 respectively, have reached an age where they will begin to consider their future.
“They enjoy the outdoors. It’s not like they don’t enjoy it at all,” says Maddy. “They’re not quite as gung ho as we were when we were younger. Times have changed. But our son may still evolve into someone who loves the outdoors.”
Maddy has made learning about and experiencing the outdoors a major part of her life. When asked about the recent news surrounding the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (BP’s trial currently ongoing), and what it means for the future of environmental studies, Maddy’s tone changed to something more attuned to optimism.
“I think that now we had some of these disasters, people are seeing the actual effects of global warming,” she says, “and I think people are beginning to understand we need to care for the environment. I stopped buying Exxon and BP oil a long time ago,” she explained. “But I’m hoping it’s raised the awareness of how important the environment is to us.”
During her undergrad days at ESU in the 1970’s, Maddy was an integral part in organizing Alternative Energy Day, the campus’s version of Earth Day, and today part of Maddy’s duties on campus is running Earth Day. This year’s Earth Day will be held on Friday April 26th and festivities will include informational booths, speakers, bands, and an interactive bike obstacle course partnered with the transportation subcommittee of ESU’s sustainability committee.
Maddy sits on the recycling and transportation subcommittees and has utilized her position to help heighten bicycle riding among ESU students. During last year’s Earth Day, a massive bike ride event was scheduled. Maddy’s work includes getting students who live close to campus to ride their bikes, and to get people to register their bikes in case if one is stolen or vandalized.
Living in the Poconos has been a love affair for Maddy ever since she came here in 1975. Maddy has made several moves away from the area, leaving to attend the University of Oregon before leaving after a week of enrollment, and going to school in Virginia for a couple days before being drawn back to East Stroudsburg. But the Poconos is not nearly the same place it was 38 years ago.
East Stroudsburg and the surrounding areas have grown considerably over time, and Maddy sees the expansion as an outlet for a possible move.
“I’d like to retire in an area that’s not as fast paced,” she says. A possibility may be to her family’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay where her family spends summers.
But, for now, Maddy will remain at ESU as the program director for Stony Acres on the second floor of the University Center. It’s here where she nourishes her life-long dream of running a camp, though the pictures on the wall may tell another story.
“I still think there are some challenges out there for me to get out and try,” she says. “But what the future holds depends on how long my body will hold up. It’s better to come in sliding feet first, muddy, totally worn out, ripped up, than compared to being put in a box in perfect condition,” Maddy says with a smile.
Before leaving her office, Maddy makes it a point to say that she is happy with her professional and personal lives, but says there is always room to improve. She explains that she does what she’s been doing for over 30 years because her job is not so much about the outdoors as it is about the students.
“I really enjoy working with the students,” she says. “I think it’s important for them to have role models, and having an influence on their life is important because I know there were faculty and staff that had an influence on my life when I was here; helping to add to their experience is what has kept me here.”
When leaving her office, the smokestack on Normal Street still blows smoke into the air, and Maddy is right back to work, sifting through papers and making important phone calls, because being an environmentalist, her work is never done.
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