“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” -T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets)
“We create wonderful places by giving them our attention.” -David Haskell (The Forest Unseen)
October 16, 2015 – Jean C. Nelson, founder of the Land Trust for Tennessee was awarded an honorary doctor of civil law degree at the University of the South (Sewanee) Founders’ Day Convocation. The Land Trust and Sewanee completed the purchase and permanent protection of 3,000 acres containing portions of Lost Cove and Champion Cove in 2008. READ MORE.
Citation by Dean Terry Papillon, honoring and introducing Jean C. Nelson at the Convocation:
Jeanie Nelson’s work within both government and private non-profit institutions has been a healing presence, helping people find coherent, effective, and long-lasting ways to dwell with responsibility and beauty on this Earth.
Her formal education began at Harpeth Hall in Nashville and continued with degrees in English (BA) and Law (JD) from Vanderbilt University. After thirteen years in private law practice, she served as Chief Deputy Attorney General for Tennessee and General Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1999, she, along with other Tennessee conservationists, founded The Land Trust for Tennessee, where she served as President and Executive Director for sixteen years. In that time, The Land Trust has helped private landowners to achieve their conservation goals on one hundred thousand acres of farms, forests, open spaces, waterways, and historic landscapes in Tennessee. Two of these projects – the Shakerag Hollow and Lost Cove easements – helped both the University and the broader conservation community to protect and responsibly manage two of Sewanee’s forested gems.
Jeanie’s work is characterized by a deep commitment to forging cooperative partnerships across organizations. In addition to the areas directly protected by The Land Trust, the networks of formal and informal alliances that have come into being under her leadership have transformed the way in which Tennesseans in non-profit, private, and governmental positions work toward common goals. Wherever innovative, effective, and long-lasting conservation action is happening in our State, Jeanie and The Land Trust for Tennessee are present, catalyzing and energizing. These relationships will, like the lands that Jeanie and her staff have protected, yield benefits to society for decades to come.
For the past twenty-five years, Jeanie has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Southern Environmental Law Center. She also serves on the Board of The Land Trust Alliance, a group of 1200 land trusts across the nation, and formerly served on Mayor Karl Dean’s Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability. In these positions, her work has consistently sought the most fruitful, wise, and positive paths through what are sometimes fractured political and ecological landscapes. Along the way, she has mentored younger conservationists, including many graduates of the University of the South, providing them with not just an extraordinary example to follow, but giving the new generation the active support needed to flourish and grow.
Jeanie Nelson’s life-long commitment to and passion for conservation has been recognized by a Governor’s Award for Conservation, the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee Community Service Award, the Land Conservationist of the Year Award, the James S. Dockery Southern Environmental Leadership Award, and the State of Tennessee’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For her extraordinary work on behalf of the community of life, work that brings coherence and harmony in a fractured world, the University of the South is honored to grant to Jeanie Nelson the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa.