Dave Messner Helps Visitors Get Hands-On with Stingrays

Volunteer holding his camera When Dave Messner and his wife Robyn moved to Hutchinson Island, he expected he’d be taken with the sea turtles nesting near their beachfront home. It turns out Dave is a ray guy!  “I came across a ray washed up on the beach one day, and when I poured some water on him, he moved,” says Dave. “I carefully picked him up, set him back in the water, and he swam away. That experience really bonded me to stingrays.”

For nearly five years Dave has been a year-round Ray Program Presenter at Florida Oceanographic Society, giving nearly 700 hours of service. He’s also helped with the Coastal Center’s outreach events, but his heart is with the rays. “Working at the ray tank you get to see the connection visitors of all ages make with the rays,” notes Dave. “It happens every time, and it’s very powerful. There are lots of other volunteer opportunities at the Coastal Center, but why would I do anything else?”

Dave married Robyn - his high school sweetheart - while he was earning a teaching degree at  Western Michigan University. During his dynamic, 41-year career in education, he had the unique experience of working with students in kindergarten through 12th grade. His roles included teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. Dave did his student teaching in Barcelona, Spain, and the overseas experience launched the couple’s international travel tradition. The Messners passed their love of travel and foreign languages on to their three children, who have all spent time overseas. In fact, their youngest daughter followed in Dave’s footsteps, working as an assistant principal in Zambia and currently, in Saudi Arabia. She and her husband, a native of Belgium, recently purchased a home in the Vosges Mountains in France. Dave and Robyn plan to spend three weeks with her family there this summer.

“When we moved to Florida, Robyn encouraged me to spend some time volunteering,” says Dave, “and it’s been incredible. I’m very impressed with the way the Coastal Center welcomes its volunteers into the family.”

Dave Messner Snapshot:

Born in: Michigan City, IN
Last paid position: Assistant Principal, Renaissance Charter School of St. Lucie 
Favorite read: The Industries of the Future by son-in-law and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross 
Flashing leather: Plays 3rd base 4 days/week 
Spare time: Nature photography, birding, overseas travel 
Good eats: Stuart's Gettin Crabby