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“Everywhere I go, Kentucky’s lands sing to me. They make music like a grand philharmonic orchestra, deeply vibrating base strings and high contrapuntal flutes playing in unison.” – Tom Dupree
In April 2018, The Nature Conservancy lost a valued trustee and philanthropist when Thomas Dupree passed away at the age of 87. His generosity was felt throughout Kentucky and his legacy endures at our own Dupree Nature Preserve.
Thomas Dupree moved around as a child. He was born in Louisville, and raised in Covington and later in Cleveland, Ohio before his family settled in Harlan County. Throughout this time, nature served as a consistent and comfortable companion, something which remained unchanged throughout his lifetime.
“Throughout my life, the woods have provided me with solace – it’s where I go to think,” said Dupree. “During these ‘retreats,’ I studied my surroundings – plants, wildflowers, grasses – and came to know myself.”
After attending Columbia Military Academy in Tennessee and then Yale University, where he earned an economics degree in 1952, Tom enjoyed a career heading up a nationally recognized municipal bonds brokerage firm. While successful, the busy schedule distracted him from some of his true loves – art, history and nature.
Connecting With Nature
Tom Dupree reconnected with his passions again in mid-life, especially when his son introduced him to The Nature Conservancy. After that, he devoted significant time to the organization as a volunteer and Board member, including a stint as Board Chairman. He also hosted his conservation colleagues and cohorts for many years at his home beside the Rockcastle River.
In 2011, the Conservancy awarded Tom with its prestigious Dr. Bruce Poundstone Volunteer of the Year Award.
“The Nature Conservancy serves as a heavy voice on behalf of how Kentucky’s rivers are used, building relationships and buying land when they need to,” Dupree said. “I’m proud to be part of that.”
Becoming a Benefactor
In 2013 Tom became a part of that in a big way after bestowing a gift to The Nature Conservancy that made it possible to establish the 300-acre Dupree Nature Preserve, a place he hoped would forever symbolize the embodiment of his appreciation for Kentucky’s beauty and grandeur.
"People who visit the preserve can get a deep feeling that it belongs to them, and it does," said Dupree at the nature preserve's opening. "It belongs to everybody, and I hope it gives them a feeling of wealth — natural wealth."
So far, his vision has been realized for the many Kentuckians and others who visit the Dupree Nature Preserve each year.
“We are so grateful to have had Tom’s thoughtful advice and wisdom over the years as a longtime member, past chairman of the Board and Emeritus Trustee,” says the Conservancy’s Kentucky State Director, David Phemister. “The Dupree Nature Preserve serves as a fitting legacy we hope Tom's family will enjoy, with great pride, for many years to come.”