News and Information from the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund
Summer 2016
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Ecosystems Scholarship Fund

Creating Tomorrow's Natural Resource Leaders.  Today.
INTERACTONS -- A newsletter informing students and donors who believe that protecting our natural resources is an essential investment in the midst of a growing human population and associated environmental issues.
Welcome to the summer 2016 issue of INTERACTIONS – a semi-annual newsletter that provides you with information on how college students are receiving assistance in meeting their financial needs while majoring in natural resources and land use planning.
You are receiving this newsletter because you are working in the field of natural resources, have done so in the past, or you are a concerned citizen who wants to help conserve our nation’s valuable natural resources.
Each generation gets pushed further away from nature while the cost of education continues to rise, but the need for trained natural resource specialists has never been higher, therefore this scholarship fund plays a crucial role in helping college students meet their financial needs.
To meet this goal the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund (link) was established in 2010 by Rollin Geppert as a component fund held at The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound (link).

My Story: Why I Created the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund - by Rollin Geppert, founder
Often times my friends ask me why I founded the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund and why I spend so many of my retirement days raising funds so total strangers can go to college and become the next generation of natural resources leaders.  Why not just be self absorbed in my hobbies, have coffee with my buddies and complain about the younger generation?  So, here is my story.
I grew up on a farm in southeastern Minnesota in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s.  For the first six years of my education I attended a one-room school house with eight other farm children.  My pet crow, Blackie, would fly and hop alongside me as I walked to school.  We had wild skunks under the school house and sometimes school would be closed due to the odor.  In the winter I skied to school and when the visibility was poor I would follow the fence line that I knew would take me in the correct direction.  Other times when the snow was too deep for cars one of the parents would come around to each farm driving a team of horses pulling a large sled.  All of us kids would pile into the back on a bed of straw and crawl under large horse blankets to stay warm.  Memorable events included the year, 1947, when the local power company came to school and one of the linemen dressed as Santa Claus connected the school to electricity.  Then there were the spring baseball games with other country schools and the day the Coca Cola truck would stop to give each student a free bottle of Coca Cola and a wooden ruler with their advertisement.  School was never closed due to bad weather.  Temps as low as -20F were common.  Everyone wore two layers of clothing so that when the outer layer that got wet during recess it could be dried by hanging it near the coal-fired stove.  Lesson learned:  Don’t grow up to be helpless.
Then in 1957 all of the students attending country schools were consolidated and bused to the nearest city.  So, starting in seventh grade, I experienced cultural shock in the large city of 1,500 with class sizes of 20 students – a sharp contrast to my previous experience of having two fellow students in my class.  And so it went, high school was completed and then it was off to college.  My parents never had the privilege of going to college.  My father completed the eighth grade and my mother completed the equivalent of two years of community college.  My siblings and I grew up with the understanding that we would go to college – at my parent’s expense.  I think that my parents considered this a fair exchange for all of the hard work we working side-by-side with our parents. By the age of 14, I was fully trained in our farming methods.  Lesson learned:  Father knows best.
When I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in forest management I immediately went to work for the state department of natural resources and spent nearly six months on snowshoes setting up timber sales on state land located near the Canadian border.  Again, the winter weather was harsh.  We were not allowed to work outdoors when the temperature dipped below -35F.  And the day the temp reached -47F with a wind chill of -75F was the day I set my fingers to the keyboard of my small portable typewriter and applied to graduate school.  In my application cover letter I stated that my reason for seeking a MS degree was that "my 1975 a college degree would be as common as a high school diploma" and therefore in order to stay ahead of the pack, more education would be needed.  Lesson learned:  Just because one is born in a certain location doesn’t mean you have to live there.
And the following year I was enrolled in a graduate program at Oregon State University where I earned a Master Degree in forest plant physiology.  The day before school started I was awarded a research assistantship that paid for all of my college expenses.  Remember, this was during the period of the Vietnam War and my draft board had plans for me the day after graduation.  This was also during the era when the US Army had the slogan of ‘Choice, Not Chance’ which was their way of luring young men into the military with the promise of having a military occupation specialty (MOS) of their choice and not the Army’s choice.  I fell victim to this promise and volunteered for the US Army’s three-year program in military intelligence.  Surprisingly, it worked.  After the normal basic training and advance individual training (AIT) I became an official ‘special agent’ and was fortunate enough to be assigned to a military base in Germany.  The Soviet Union had just invaded Czechoslovakia and the Cold War was an additional threat as were the problems in Vietnam.  One of the best parts of this experience was being able to serve my country while dressed in a three-piece suit, driving a government owned VW Super Beetle and having my own office – with a view.  Lesson learned:  A good education is neither easy nor convenient.
This is a backdrop for the rest of the story.
When I returned to the USA from Germany and once again joined the civilian work force, I was fortunate enough to obtain a job in my career path of natural resources.  This is not say that I didn’t have to earn it by filling out numerous job applications, but within a few months I had a great job working in research for the US Forest Service that supported my family which now consisted of my wife and twin sons.  Within a year a job opening surfaced in WA State and I was selected to be the first forest scientist in the newly formed Washington State Department of Ecology.  After nearly seven years working on non-point water quality issues and forest practices regulations I resigned to form the states first multi-disciplinary natural resources consulting firm, Ecosystems Inc., that I operated for nearly ten years.  When the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife asked me to head up a new program for them, I left the consulting world and was excited to work for a great boss and director.  Thirteen years later I was asked to work for the Governor’s Office in helping to administer the state’s first federal funds for restoring and protecting salmonid habitat.  And that evolved into a much larger effort administered by the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO) where I served as staff to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.  I spent seven years with the RCO and retired in 2007 after working for over 40 years in natural resources.  Lesson learned:  The best things in life come to us unsolicited.
My first thought was, “Who is going to replace me?”  As I looked around and saw how each succeeding generation seems to get pushed farther and farther away from nature I was soon propelled into taking the only logical course that I could think of and that was to find a way to help young people pick up the charge to care for the earth and all of its wonderful resources. 

After spending three years searching for the right venue, I settled on the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound.  This organization was founded in 1989 and is one of over 700 community foundations in the United States that serves as a conduit for philanthropy.  It was here that I founded the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund on October 21, 2010.  After that came the publication of an informational brochure, a web site ( and the formation of a core team composed of close friends who care about the future, natural resources, education and being supportive of me.
In this issue of INTERACTIONS you will meet the 2016 recipients of the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund.  These two students bring the total number of students funded since 2010 to seven.  I think of this as my way of working to save the planet, one student at a time.
I believe that when you work in natural resources your job is never done, even in retirement.  I chose to invest in students.  I hope you believe this too.  Join me in helping the next generation of natural resources leaders by donating today so that tomorrow will be a better day.
If not you, who and if not now, when?

The Ecosystems Scholarship Fund is a scholarship established through the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound in Olympia, WA.  This scholarship fund is unique in that it provides a systematic process for assisting students with their college expenses in pursuing careers in natural resources and land use planning.  Also, donors who employ people in natural resources and land use planning can have confidence that this scholarship will ultimately create a pool from which they can hire future employees.
Here are some of the nation’s leaders in natural resources who believe the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund is essential in the 21st century:
* John Mankowski, Coordinator, North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Bill Ruckelshaus, Director, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1970 and 1985; Chairman, WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board 1999-2008; and Chairman, Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council
* Jim Pena, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester, US Forest Service, Region 6
* Kaleen Cottingham, Director, WA State Recreation & Conservation Office
* Phil Anderson, Director, WA State Department of Fish and Wildlife
* Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands, WA State Department of Natural Resources
* Don Hoch, Director, WA State Parks and Recreation Commission
* Ralph Munro, WA Secretary of State 1980-2001
* Martin Raphael, Team Leader and Senior Scientist, US Forest Service Forestry Sciences Laboratory
* Chris Maser, Author and Lecturer, Social - Environmental Sustainability
* John Dodge, Columnist, The Olympian Newspaper
* David Workman, WA State Government Executive Manager
* Ted Sturdevant, Director, WA Department of Ecology

See leadership endorsement statements here.
Thank you for your generous support.
Read Later
Each issue of INTERACTIONS features some of the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund recipients. Read below to learn how the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund is making a real difference for our youth and the environment .
2016 Recipient: Lambert Ngenzi.  I come from a family of four boys and one girl.  My parents fled their native country, Rwanda in 1994 because of genocide.  They were forced to seek refuge in the neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I was born.
Everything was in deep turmoil when I was brought into this world.  After a three year struggle since my birth, my parents attempted to begin a new life by eventually moving to the Republic of Congo in 1997.
It was early in my journey, growing up in Congo, that my parents taught me that education is the only way to succeed and accomplish what one believes in.  I worked hard during my early days at school and consistently followed my parents’ advice to take the path with serenity, love, and perseverance.  This has taught me to focus on a path that could eventually lead me to success and make me my family happy.
In 2005, I was faced with a tragic situation I could not fix. My parents decided to divorce, aggravating the sorrow on top of dealing with the horrors of genocide in Rwanda that my parents fled from. Despite this tragedy, my mother continued to support all of her five children to achieve their dreams.  It was then that I made a promise to her:  "I will do my very best to achieve your dream, and my dream, to be someone and make you happy."
Seeing the vast opportunities that lie ahead of me in the field of environmental science can be exciting.  Being in my first year of college, it has already allowed me to continue to acquire and share my knowledge and experience.  I could sense the humanity of the academic community, as if it were a parent, nurturing his child in a scholarly way.  Right now, I am that child determined to pursue a dream in spite of multiple past challenges, persevering in seeking ways to better my life and the world around me.
As I continue my journey of transformation, I want to contribute to the transformation of the world by addressing environmental and water conservation issues.  I remember back in Republic of Congo getting up early in the morning and walking approximatively three to four miles in order to get water to supply our family’s basic needs.  My older brother Lionel and I had to do this labor almost every other day. These experiences have shaped and inspired me in various ways.
I know what it means to work hard. I have experienced what it means to be challenged, as I carry on with a "warrior spirit" instilled in me by my elders.  I also know how it feels to be humbled, to be grateful to those who have provided me the strength, the will and the knowledge to persist.
There is so much to benefit from the Ecosystems Scholarship I see the promise I made to my mother, coming to fruition.  Finally, this experience will allow me to come up with ideas in environmental science which will contribute to a better environment, promoting a better life for the present and for future generations.

2016 Recipient: Elizabeth Warren.  As a student in high school, I was very interested in environmental studies as well as agriculture. Today, I am pursuing an Agricultural Education degree through the Honors College at Washington State University, as well as a minor in Spanish.
I hope to use my degree to obtain a position as a high school teacher.  I would like to teach topics ranging from environmental science to horticulture to animal science.  At the surface, there does not seem to be much of a connection between agricultural sciences and ecosystems, however, the last few years of my education have taught me differently.
The practices of farming and ranching affect ecosystems in many different ways.  From manure runoff to the elimination of natural habitats, agriculture and natural ecosystems go hand in hand. In a world striving for “greener” solutions to everyday problems and the increasing demand to feed a growing population, change in one system results in change in another.  With my position as a high school educator, I hope to educate students on sustainability practices.  I want to encourage students to become active in the systems that surround them through hands-on activities and by connecting students to scientists and farmers alike.
Being an agriculture advocate is not limited to supporting agriculture; it involves building up and supporting other concepts, ideas, and processes needed to keep agriculture in place.  The development of new technologies lays in the hands of the future generations- the students I will work with on a daily basis.  Change is the result of thinking differently than those before, and working with students will provide me the opportunity to shift thinking from having to feed the world to having to feed the world in a sustainable manner.  What use is there in feeding the population efficiently now if we cannot guarantee the success of future generations?
I hope to serve as an advocate for agriculture as well as the natural environment that lies beyond farm fences.  I aspire to demonstrate for my students that there is more to agriculture than cows, sows, and plows.  My goal is for students to leave my class having gained information about the world we live in, the interdependency that surrounds us all, and the many opportunities they have to get involved in the world they live in and to preserve that world for those to come.

To donate to the Ecosystems Scholarship Fund, contact: The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, 212 Union Ave. SE, Suite 102, Olympia, WA 98501, (360) 705-3340.   You can also donate online by through the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound's web site (link).  Click on 'Give Now" which will take you to the 'Scholarships' section and then click on 'Ecosystems Scholarship Fund.'

NEW FEATURE:  We have added a new feature to the web site titled IN MEMORIAM (link) that honors people who have spent their careers working in natural resources. These people will always be remembered by their loved ones for their dedication and accomplishments, Through their donations to this fund we can share this information with the rest of the world.
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