On this past Tuesday, Oct 16th, I had the privilege of giving a PowerPoint Presentation at Lathrop Retirement Home in Easthampton, MA on carbon in trees and the long standing debates on young versus mature trees as the best sequesters. Just before the start of my presentation, an elderly, but spry, lady approached me with a thick file, which she explained belonged to her late husband. Dr. Jonathan Richardson was a biology and ecology professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA for over 40 years. According to his wife, he was also an unabashed big tree hunter who kept copious notes. His wife offered to gift me all his notes on big trees in a very thick folder. She wanted a home for them, as she simplified her life. I was a little overwhelmed at the offer, and considered it a decided honor. The folder contains many newspaper clippings on big trees, old copies of the National Register of Champion Trees, and Professor Richardson's personal measurements. For instance, he measured the champion American sycamore of PA many times. I had searched for that tree years ago on a trip from Massachusetts to Virginia.
I plan to glean as much as I can from the notes, talk to Mrs. Richardson, and hopefully, write an article for American Forests. In Googling Professor Richardson and his obituary, he was described as a gentle soul and an inspiration to his students. In reading about the college's history, here is an excerpt:
Franklin & Marshall College is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States. Our roots go back to Franklin College, founded in 1787 with a generous financial contribution from Benjamin Franklin.
The product of a pioneering collaboration between English- and German-speaking communities in the most ethnically diverse region of the new nation, the College was launched by leaders of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches with support from trustees that included four signers of the Declaration of Independence, three future governors of Pennsylvania, two members of the Constitutional Convention, and seven officers of the Revolutionary Army. Their goal was "to preserve our present republican system of government," and "to promote those improvements in the arts and sciences which alone render nations respectable, great and happy."
The college's distinguished history has made me even more determined to explore the connection of Professor Richardson and big trees, and tell at least a little of his story. I'll need to interview his wife, maybe visit the college, and hopefully be able to paint a picture of the professor and his passion for big trees. Lots more to come on this topic.