“We knew him as Wally,” wrote Committee for Green Foothills’ President Pauline Lord in a 1997 newsletter article remembering the celebrated teacher and author Wallace Stegner. A co-founder of Committee for Green Foothills and its first president, Stegner is a father to our organization whose writings are as relevant today as they were a half century ago.
It was his work ethic to rise early each morning and write, pecking away with index fingers at his Olympia typewriter. He worked in an office outside the Los Altos Hills home he shared with his wife, Mary Page Stegner, for 45 years. He lived a big life, one that is hard to wrap your arms around in a blog post. Not unlike like the complex characters and vast and diverse landscapes he wrote about.
Stegner was first and foremost a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction throughout his 60-year career. His many published works include the Pulitzer prize-winning novel Angle of Repose, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian chronicling John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the West, and a little-known book about racism in America. Much of his professional life was also dedicated to teaching writing at Harvard and Stanford among other universities. It wasn’t until his forties that he also began to write in support of public land, including in his own backyard, by lending an eloquent voice to Committee for Green Foothills’ vision.
“To try to save for everyone, for the hostile and indifferent as well as the committed, some of the health that flows down across the green ridges from the Skyline, and some of the beauty and refreshment of spirit that are still available to any resident of the valley who has a moment, and the wit, to lift his eyes unto the hills,” he wrote about Committee for Green Foothills’ work in our 20-year anniversary publication.
Before helping create and give voice to Committee for Green Foothills, he wrote at the urging of the Sierra Club’s David Brower in support of protecting Dinosaur National Monument, and later Glen Canyon, from dams. Around this time Stegner wrote his famous Wilderness Letter urging protection of America’s remaining unspoiled land. He also worked briefly in Washington, D.C under the Kennedy administration to help expand the National Park System.
Though he passed away in 1993 at age 84, his words continue to have an impact. Stegner wrote of the work we do, “Environmentalism or conservation or preservation, or whatever it should be called, is not a fact, and never has been. It is a job.”
One that he generously gave a moving voice to, and that we are hard at work continuing at an organization created in part by his actions and unwavering support, and perennially inspired by his words. Thank you, Wally. We’re thinking of you at Committee for Green Foothills this Father’s Day.
Still looking for that perfect Father’s Day gift? Give your dad a gift membership to Committee for Green Foothills today.