Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
In Memoriam: Joan Heidelberg
We have received the sad news that Joan Heidelberg, the first Executive Vice President of NAAEE has died. Joan served as Executive Vice President of NAAEE from 1979 to 1991. She was instrumental in laying the foundation for the dynamic, resource rich association we value so much today. Follow the link for Joan's obituary.
"Joan brought joy to everyone. She was warm and hospitable, while also being effective. I first met Joan in 1979 when I became a member of NAEE (precursor to NAAEE). My first memories are of someone who was welcoming and dedicated. I got to know her better when I became an NAAEE board member. Such good memories. My heartfelt condolences to her family and friends. NAAEE has lost a true champion." - Bora Simmons, on Facebook
Joan was born and raised in Alabama but moved to Ohio in the early 1960s with her husband Bob after they completed advanced degrees at Rice University. Some years after moving to Ohio, they helped develop and then co-manage Brukner Nature Center near Troy, OH. Joan’s path was soon to cross with NAAEE’s.
The original NAAEE was established as the National Association of Environmental Education (NAEE) in 1971. A group of Community College Educators based in Florida were the impetus behind the new association. These volunteers soon realized that they needed professional help in administering it. They developed a request for proposals for administrative support. Brukner bid on the project and was awarded a contract for administering NAEE in 1979. Thus, Joan became the first Executive Vice President of NAEE. Originally, she was to work half time for NAEE and half time for Brukner, but NAEE’s workload increased and she was soon full time for NAEE while continuing her ever increasing duties with Bruckner.
"She was one of the first people I met when I first started in EE. She was a very special person." - Brenda Weiser, on Facebook
As the first Executive Vice President, Joan quickly found it necessary to build the infrastructure for the programs that over the years were to become the core of NAEE.
She developed a computerized membership records system. (The first records were handed to her on notecards in a shoebox.)
The financial records and management system were equally informal. Soon, bookkeeping was handled by a qualified individual and check writing and recording computerized.
The biggest program effort then as now was the annual conference. Joan worked with a cadre of volunteers who provided the on-the-ground and programmatic support for the conference each year while managing its finances and other administrative tasks. Joan initiated and managed a dozen conferences during her tenure.
"Joan is an example of a person who loved our profession, loved NAAEE and was selfless in her contributions. She has left a legacy for environmental education and we should be ever mindful that her work in the field beckons us to carry on in the spirit of her many contributions." - Joseph August Baust, on Facebook
Joan also managed the NAEE publication program that in cooperation with ERIC and John Disinger at Ohio State provided environmental educators with a series of research and programmatic publications including conference proceedings each year.
In 1983 the Board of NAEE decided to officially recognize the wider scope of NAEE’s membership and welcomed Canada and Mexico to the organization. Thus, the North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) was born with Joan’s assistance.
All the while, Joan, was the hardworking, highly organized leader of NAAEE although she preferred to stay in the background while the President and other Board members represented the organization and developed policy.
Joan retired from NAAEE in 1992 and from Brukner in 1997. In the years after her retirement, she continued volunteer work in her community and traveled extensively in the USA, as well as internationally.
We welcome members of the NAAEE community to share reflections and memories of Joan in the comments below.