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La Salle News

October 23, 2020

For biology professor, tradition is ‘pumpkin’ to celebrate

This year, La Salle’s Stefan Samulewicz extends a Halloween ritual to his classroom.

Stefan Samulewicz, Ph.D., doesn’t consider himself to be an artist. He’s says he’s not especially good at drawing.

But he sure can carve a pumpkin.

Samulewicz produces dozens of carved pumpkins each year for display at his family’s Halloween party. An associate professor of biology at La Salle University, he takes a modest approach to the carvings—using printouts and stencils to fashion jaw-dropping designs.

Samulewicz gets an assist from family members to scoop, carve, and set up the display in his Chester County neighborhood. Collectively, the group carves more than 100 pumpkins of varied sizes and shapes. As one might guess, his home every October becomes a destination for those looking to gaze upon piles of the ornate orange aesthetics.

“We pick a theme every year, then we get to work. My family members, neighbors and their family members, and our friends—they all stop by to see the designs,” said Samulewicz.

Carved pumpkins don’t have a lengthy shelf life. They may last only a couple days once they have been carved. In years past, Samulewicz and family members have gathered at his home two days prior to Halloween for what he describes as “a carving marathon.” The holiday ritual has been going on for more than 20 years.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Samulewicz family won’t host their party and will limit the display to the front lawn where passersby can safely enjoy the Halloween glow. In addition, he said, he will incorporate a pumpkin-carving component into one of his courses. He leads two sections of biochemistry, a prerequisite for upper-level La Salle students, from a campus laboratory in the University’s Holroyd Hall. There, Samulewicz will use his tools to carve a pumpkin—and encourage his students to join in from the Zoom classroom.

“Faculty across the university have found unique and innovative ways to build upon the strong sense of community that we are known for at La Salle, all while navigating a nearly entirely virtual academic semester,” Samulewicz said. “This is an opportunity to take a few minutes out of one of our labs to bring the Halloween spirit to life and add a dash of levity and fun to a high-level and intensive course for our biology students.”

—Christopher A. Vito