Ed Austin’s zeal for life is infectious. Whether he’s retelling his adventures in English country dancing (10 hours of dancing over one weekend!), singing St. Matthew’s Passion with his choir or recounting early experiences hiking with his family in the mountains of Colorado, he’s animated and full of passion.
As a teen, Ed worked several summers taking tourists through the mountains near Denver by day, then performing as an opera chorister by night to entertain them. Those days and nights forged a lifetime of memories and a lasting love of nature.
“I can still vividly recall one night we went out riding horseback under a full moon,” he says. “The memory of looking down on the silver path of the river in the moonlight is still with me today.”
Before retiring, he worked for 40 years at Rochester, New York based Kodak, where he had the opportunity to spend 25 summers as a “Kodak volunteer” in Rocky Mountain National Park, teaching photography techniques to park visitors. There, he discovered The Nature Conservancy as it was brokering a deal between a rancher and the National Park Service. He was impressed with the Conservancy’s approach and efficiency.
“I saw how they worked and thought, ‘Boy, that is the organization for me!’”
After Ed retired, he wanted to make a gift that would leave a “real legacy.” But he still needed his retirement income. So he made the Conservancy a beneficiary of some of his retirement plan assets. This enabled him to give a significant amount to the Conservancy without affecting his current finances.
“I am willing to dedicate a piece of my retirement to them because I know they will make good use of it,” he says. “I love the way they work with other organizations and people to achieve their goals. That is the way to get things done.”
Ed also believes strongly in the Conservancy’s global conservation vision. He understands that ecosystems everywhere are interconnected and that we all benefit by thinking beyond our backyards.
Though he says he’s sometimes “too busy dancing and singing to get out into nature,” he recently combined these passions by hosting a birthday dance party as a fundraiser for the Conservancy. For Ed, giving to the Conservancy is a way to protect natural places in the future.
“This world needs us to think beyond the present,” he says. “I want to make a difference in this world tomorrow.”
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