The conservation community loses a good friend

In Remembrance of Eugene C. Lee
September 12, 1924 – April 27, 2011

Eugene C. Lee, a member of the national Board of Directors of The Trust for Public Land for 30 years, passed away April 27 at his home in Sonoma, California. He was 86.

Mr. Lee was long associated with the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a professor of political science, the director of Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies, and also a leading administrator of the campus.

He joined TPL’s board in 1979, only seven years after TPL had been founded, and was a leader in building TPL into the national organization it is today. He was also one of the founders of The Conservation Campaign (TCC), a separate organization created by TPL to help advance the cause of local conservation funding around the nation.

“For more than 30 years, TPL benefited from Gene’s thoughtful approach and careful review of conservation projects,” said TPL President Will Rogers. “Gene’s sense of ethics as well as his patience and dedication made him an outstanding board member.”

The TPL board passed a resolution last week commending his 30 years of work on the board.

Doug Ferguson, one of TPL’s co-founders and also a long-time board member, said, “It was a real privilege to work with Gene over his many years of service to both the Trust for Public Land and The Conservation Campaign. His passion for the mission of both organizations knew no limits. Gene was a regular participant at TPL’s staff retreats, always wanting to benefit from ideas and concerns coming ‘from the trenches.’ He was for me an excellent model of the persistence and curiosity that a good Director brings to the table. He will be very much missed.”

Page Knudsen Cowles, who currently chairs TPL’s Board of Directors, is immediate Past Chair of The Conservation Campaign and continues to serve as a member of its board.

“Gene was asked to be the first chair of the Land Action Fund, which ultimately was renamed The Conservation Campaign,” she recalled. “Gene did all the heavy lifting to make sure all the rules were clearly followed when the organization was set up. Gene paid very close attention to making sure that the activities of TCC and those of TPL were clear. When I first joined the TCC board, Gene was a patient teacher who was always generous with his time and counsel as he educated me about the relationship between the two organizations.

“When I became chair of TCC in 2003, I realized that because of Gene’s leadership and attention to detail, TCC was ready to expand its scope to many more states and communities across the country,” Ms. Cowles said. “Without Gene’s work, that would not have been possible.”

Martin Rosen, past President of TPL and also a co-founder of the organization, said, “For more than a decade, Professor Gene Lee was a source of wisdom and guidance on the Board of the Trust for Public Land. He brought scholarship and insight in the areas of state and federal governance that helped TPL successfully navigate the difficult shoals of policy and politics that a scrappy non-profit like TPL needed when faced with challenges. Again and again, he helped us find positive pathways to serve our land ethic. His pioneering work in helping inaugurate the TPL’s Conservation Campaign are a major part of his conservation legacy.”

Gene passed away at home, surrounded by his family, including his wife, Joanne.

A memorial service will be held May 12 in Berkeley.