Posted: January 11, 2022

Over the past several weeks, we at the Center have been overwhelmed by messages of support and sympathy for the loss of our founder Jim Finley. We also have heard many, many stories of the ways in which Jim, whether in the classroom or the woods, touched peopleʼs lives.

These expressions inspire and comfort us as we process our deep sadness at his death and explore, with his wife Linda and son Andy, how best to advance his distinctive legacy, working at the intersection of people and forests.

As you may know, the Center for Private Forests was established in 2011 to build upon the research and educational engagement Jim and his colleagues had undertaken over decades working at that intersection. Jim recognized the vital importance of private forests to the ecosystem and society. He also believed in the capacity of forest landowners and communities to become powerful forces in improving forest health and vitality. When the idea of the Center for Private Forests was being explored, we saw it as a way to ensure that Penn State would continue to advance understanding of this critical relationship between people and the land, building on the work that had made Jim a highly regarded academic scholar and champion of private forests and the people who care for them.

In its early years and in the four years since his retirement, Jim worked to ensure that the Center was on sound footing, actively participating in expanding the scholarship, collaboration, and innovation that defined his career in forestry. He contributed to grants that enabled the Center to advance its contributions to the body of knowledge about forest landowners and their land. He also continued to spread his knowledge of and enthusiasm for forest stewardship throughout the communities of people who own and care for forests. He remained in a leadership role within the Center, serving as the Chair of its volunteer Council, and was a ready sounding board for new ideas and perspectives. Over the past year, Jim led the Center’s strategic planning effort, articulating new and innovative directions for the Center to pursue and providing a roadmap to guide the Center’s work into the future.

As the Center looks ahead, we seek to honor Jim by continuing the innovative work that he began and championing the stewardship values that were important to him. We find solace in knowing that Jim’s efforts over the past decade have prepared the Center well for the future. Jim inspired the Center to be a leader in research, to inspire and cultivate stewardship, and to engage landowners and professionals to work together to care for forest ecosystems. We recognize and embrace the responsibility of the Center to build on the tremendous foundation Jim gave us, adding to his legacy, and ensuring that even those not fortunate enough to know him, know of his impact.

As we continue this work and honor Jim’s life, legacy, and vision, we are grateful for the support of his family, friends, and colleagues, and look forward to sharing the Center’s progress in the months and years to come.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Center’s plans or ways of making a philanthropic gift in Jim’s memory should contact Allyson B. Muth, Ed.D., Center Director, at (814) 865-3208, or Lauren Steinberg, Senior Director of Development, College of Agricultural Sciences, at (814) 865-0158.

Contact Information

Allyson Brownlee Muth, Ed.D.
  • Director, Center for Private Forests

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802