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Richard H. Goodwin 1910-2007

Richard H. Goodwin, PhD, botanist and infamous protector of America’s coastlines, died at 96 on July 6, 2007, in East Lyme, Connecticut.1

Dr. Goodwin was well-known for co-founding the Connecticut Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, along with the late wetlands expert William A. Niering, PhD. Dr. Goodwin was so dedicated to this organization that he served as president twice from 1956-1958 and 1964-1966, both times without pay.2 He also negotiated the group’s first land purchase in California: 3,000-acres of forest along the state’s northern coast.3

Among Dr. Goodwin’s other accomplishments were the creation of the Conservation and Research Foundation in 1953, which awarded grants to scientists who attempt to preserve the natural environment, and the expansion of the 1,200-acre Burnham Brook Preserve in East Haddam, Connecticut. He even donated his home and 170 acres of his own land to the preserve.3

Dr. Goodwin was born December 14, 1910, in Brookline, Massachusetts.3 By 1937 he had earned a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a doctorate degree in biology from Harvard University. Armed with a concentration in botany, he taught the subject at the University of Rochester for several years before joining Connecticut College in 1944. There he served as a professor until 1976 and chaired the botany department for 21 years.4 As director of the Connecticut College Arboretum until 1965, he helped expand the 90-acre facility to 400 acres during his time there. Today the arboretum encompasses 750 acres. Though he retired in 1976, he remained highly active in the program.

“Dick stayed involved in the Arboretum and Botany Department activities right until the end,” said Glenn D. Dreyer, the current Arboretum director (e-mail, August 16, 2007). In fact, Dreyer originally met Dr. Goodwin at the Arboretum’s 50th Anniversary party. “He was a very impressive character to a youngish grad student,” Dreyer said. “I always envied his ability to come up with a little story or anecdote in social situations that got everybody chuckling.”

It was no surprise when in 1999 Dr. Goodwin was honored with the naming of the Connecticut College Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and Environment Studies, an interdisciplinary program first established under a different name in 1993.4

“It is true that the actions of a few can change the world for many,” said Steven J. McCormick, president and CEO of the Conservancy, in a recent press release.2 “[I]t could not be more true than when speaking of Dick Goodwin.”

Dr. Goodwin is survived by wife Esther, daughter Mary Linder Wetzel, son Richard H. Goodwin Jr., 4 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.

—Kelly E. Saxton
  1. Hevesi D. Richard H. Goodwin, 96; Preserver of the Environment. New York Times. July 14, 2007;C010.

  2. The Nature Conservancy. Governance Richard H. (“Dick”) Goodwin, 1911-2007 [press release]. July 2007. Available at http:// Accessed August 20, 2007.

  3. Nelson VJ. Obituaries; Richard H. Goodwin, 96; leader in land conservation. Los Angeles Times. July 23, 2007;B7.

  4. Current News. Richard H. Goodwin, early land preservationist and Connecticut College professor, dies at 96. The Connecticut College Web site. Available at Accessed August 20, 2007.