Donors Making a Difference

Sunny Duvick

“To protect the environment and its diversity you must first understand them.”

Selma “Sunny” Duvick’s late husband Don was an accomplished botanist and researcher, recognized throughout the agricultural industry and by the elite National Academy of Sciences for his work in improving crop yields. He also considered biological diversity of great importance and served some 25 years on the board of The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. To honor him while advancing a historically underfunded program, Sunny recently established the Don Duvick Research & Monitoring Endowment, a gift that will grow our capacity for local land stewardship long into the future.

“Don was raised on a small dairy farm in northern Illinois and fully expected that dairy farming would be his career. After a year or two in college and a stint in the Army in World War II, he was introduced to the sciences of plant breeding, and his goal changed. From there, he continued his education in plant physiology and genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

My undergraduate education was in biology, but I took a summer course in ecology, and that introduced me to the environmental side of science outside of the lab. Don and I met at Washington University, married, and moved to Iowa, where his job was focused on crop science. As our family grew, we took camping vacations out west, and the children and I participated in Don’s ‘botanizing’ in many different environments.

One of Don’s graduate school colleagues suggested that he would be interested in the work of The Nature Conservancy, then in its infancy in Iowa. Don was drawn to its approach to the conservation of biological diversity. Around that time, we purchased 10 acres of semi-rural land near Des Moines with a large hayfield that was of little use, and it became Don’s lifelong project to turn it into a reconstituted prairie, which neighbors, passers-by, and family have all enjoyed over the years. What was happening on the prairie was a perennial topic of conversation. This fit perfectly with Don’s interest in the Conservancy, and mine, as well.

Over the years, Don and I particularly appreciated and supported the Conservancy because it is not political and seeks to work cooperatively with individuals and other organizations. A bonus of our involvement has been the opportunity to become acquainted with people from many different fields and walks of life who have been drawn together by a common interest in the work of The Nature Conservancy.

I chose to fund the Research and Monitoring Endowment to honor Don because he knew that to protect the environment and its diversity you must first understand them, and to understand them requires research. It is my hope that others will find that supporting the Conservancy is a worthwhile investment in the vital protection of natural diversity around the world.”


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