Another Trip Back in Time: Kerr Lab Time Capsule Reopened in Honor of 50th Anniversary

By Richard Lowrance

On Wednesday, June 8th, a group of us gathered with anticipation and nostalgia at EPA’s Robert S Kerr Environmental Research Center in Ada, Oklahoma, as a cornerstone box was dusted off and unsealed. As division director, I had the honor of opening the time capsule and displaying the contents which included time-stamped artifacts representing preserved memories, major milestones, and key accomplishments of our predecessors dating back 50 years.

corner stone box with contents surrounding it

Time capsule contents

Current center employees gathered along with twenty former employees, including one of our former directors, Clint Hall (1980-2001). Originally opened in 1996 on the 30th anniversary of our research center, the time capsule was opened again in honor of the center’s 50th anniversary, which will be commemorated during our 50th Anniversary Event and Technical Symposium on August 3rd.

Items placed in the time capsule during the Center’s dedication in 1966 include a copy of the Robert S. Kerr’s book Land, Wood and Water; a 1966 Kerr Lab employee roster; a poem, “White Oak,” written by Thelma Stroud as she sat beneath an oak tree near Kerr’s memorial; a copy of the memorial address delivered in Congress upon Kerr’s death in 1963; and an invitation to the original dedication of the RSKERC building.

Additional items placed in the time capsule in 1996 include a video message from Lab Director Clinton W. Hall describing the role of the lab and EPA; a newspaper clipping from the Ada News on the opening of the time capsule; a laboratory brochure; a 1996 organizational chart and employee roster; and various reports produced by researchers at the Kerr Lab.

A group of us gathered to open the time capsule. From left to right: Ann Runyan, retiree (she was here in 1966), Jack Keeley, retiree (also here in 1966), Clint Hall, former Division Director (1980 – 2001), me, Michael Brooks, Environmental Engineer, John Skender, Facilities Manager is standing behind Michael.

A group of us gathered to open the cornerstone box. From left to right: Ann Runyan, retiree (she was here in 1966), Jack Keeley, retiree (also here in 1966), former Division Director Clint Hall, me, Michael Brooks, and John Skender (behind Michael).

Built in the 1960s, the Kerr center is one of the original regional water research laboratories established under the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration. It became part of the newly-formed EPA in 1970. By the late 1990s, the research mission expanded to include ground water remediation and ecosystems restoration. Over the last 50 years, our scientific excellence and research advancements have changed how communities, regions, and the Nation protect and manage its ground water and ecological resources.

The Anniversary Event and Symposium will recognize our achievements and showcase past, current, and future research at the center to the scientific community, elected officials, regional and program representatives, and the greater community. The state of ground water issues and research in the United States will also be discussed. At the closing of the August 3rd event, we will have an opportunity to add new items to the capsule before it is sealed and returned to the cornerstone box. New items will likely include documents identifying current employees, high profile research efforts, and major accomplishments that align with our mission to protect human health and the environment.

About the Author: Richard Lowrance has been the Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division director since June 2014. Before that he was a research ecologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service for 31 years.


Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.