As a teenager, Jan Larkin made extra money in the summer by “salvage diving” in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, hauling out miscellaneous valuables that vacationers had dropped off the dock. She was only 12 when she first began diving into those murky waters, but she was hooked. Her love of the water deepened when, vacationing with her family, she had the chance to experience the dramatically different and wildly beautiful waters of The Bahamas and the Florida Keys. She still scuba dives today.
“I feel most whole when I am in nature,” she says.
Jan’s love and respect for nature stems from a childhood spent outdoors—not only in and around the lake, but hiking and riding horses near her home and in Rocky Mountain National Park (where she led horseback tours as a college student). From a young age, she remembers, she had a true appreciation for the diversity of life and intelligence of species.
A clinical psychologist by trade and a self-proclaimed amateur anthropologist, Jan seems driven by genuine curiosity, passion and a zest for life. And she is always ready for adventure. Her latest is a month-long trip to Australia that will culminate with a week in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, where she will see firsthand the Conservancy’s work to protect a place she cares about: The Coral Triangle, home to more than three-quarters of the world’s coral species. Though she’s never been to the region, when she learned more about its fragile coral reefs and the Conservancy’s reef resiliency work there, she was inspired by what could be saved.
A Lasting Gift
“For me, it was never a choice—I knew I would direct my support to protect oceans. But to see the remaining richness of life still found in the Coral Triangle is particularly exciting,” she says. “I think that if our oceans can recover and survive, then our planet will survive.”
Many years ago, Jan chose charitable bequests as a way to support the causes she is most passionate about. She likes the flexibility of bequests because she can change them to meet current needs. She has remained a loyal Conservancy member because of its strong focus on science and partnerships with local groups and peoples.
“Conservancy scientists are out there getting their hands dirty and their feet wet,” she says.
As the human race faces what she believes to be its biggest challenge ever—addressing rampant environmental degradation—she finds reason for hope when she looks at the Conservancy’s successes in helping local people maintain their way of life while preserving nature: “The Conservancy has been living and practicing sustainability long before it was a buzzword,” she says.
For Jan, there is not a moment to waste when it comes to protecting the planet. Her gifts to the Conservancy are testaments to her belief that no matter the size of the problem, we all have a role to play.
“We have to preserve what we can now, so that in the future, we can reseed and restore what we might lose,” she says. “And I want the next generation to see some of the beauty I’ve been blessed to see.”
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