Forest Stearns

Forest Stearns at home in Rhinelander, WI

Remembering Forest Stearns

by Tom Krischan

In 1999, we lost Forest Stearns. He was my friend, teacher, and hero. When I heard the news, I walked out in my woods and cried. I sat among my pine trees and thought of him.

Here are some of my fondest memories:

Between 1976-1981, when I was an undergraduate and graduate student in Botany, Forest led many field trips around the midwest. On one over night trip in northern Wisconsin, I remember the graduate students sitting around a camp fire with Forest and Phil Whitford telling stories and singing songs. It went on for hours, one would just finish a story and then the other would start. It was wonderful.

I remember hiking through the Sylvania wilderness area with Forest, finding and remeasuring a research plot of old woods. It was my first time in a wilderness and my first experience with big trees. I was hooked. Every year since, I have attempted to make a wilderness walk through Sylvania in October. It is my favorite place, and where I will always think of Forest.

And so many times I remember being among a gathering of graduate students in his home in Shorewood. Forest always welcomed us and made everyone feel like family. It was a caring environment that was unique.

I first went into college teaching in 1982. My opportunity was in computers, rather than ecology, but I brought along all that Forest taught me. Forest taught me to be a scientist and to care about students. Those lessons served me well, even in the computer field. Every semester I had students in my home and I hope that I cared about them as much as Forest cared about me.

I am certain that there are hundreds of students whose lives Forest touched. While Forest is missed, he will never be forgotten - not as long as we teach our students the same lessons that he taught us.

My favorite quote from Forest is from a 1987 letter he wrote me:

May the green things of the forest smile on you
and drop their leaves only at the preordained time.
May you sometime hear the footsteps
of the chipmunks on their daily rounds
and catch the glimpse of the wary whitetail
and the waiting eagle.

- Forest Stearns

Pine Hill Nature Preserve. 1981. In Photo (from left): John Dorney, Hattie Purtell, Janet Keough, Forest Stearns, Julie Stromberg, Glenn Guntenspergen, Mike Kunowski, Larry Leitner, Kurt Schulz. Behind the lens, Tom Krischan

Pine Hill Nature Preserve. 1981. In Photo (from left): Glenn Guntenspergen, Hattie Purtell, Janet Keough, Forest Stearns, Larry Leitner, Mike Kunowski. Behind the lens, Tom Krischan

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