Trinity University Press

Jane Goodall-James R. Roach

Her Voice Continues to Resonate

James R. Roach

    Jane and I first met in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1994. The Jane Goodall Institute had just relocated to Ridgefield from Arizona. At that time the JGI Board was being revitalized, and I was invited by JGI’s Director, Don Buford, to join the Board.

    Western Connecticut State University was establishing its Roots & Shoots program at that time and working on its education curriculum. Dr. Howard Russock, Chair of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, was strongly committed to developing the program. As President of WestConn, I was convinced that a university component for Roots & Shoots would be beneficial to the program, especially since the majority of public universities in America produced the classroom teachers who would be involved in Roots & Shoots programs around the country.

    Jane already had established relationships with other Universities, most notably with the University of Minnesota. She came to WestConn’s campus to meet with students and faculty to introduce them to her work with chimpanzees. She spoke to them as well of her concern for the world’s endangered environment, and of her conviction that Roots & Shoots could make a significant difference in the lives of students. In February 1995 Jane and I signed an agreement committing WestConn and JGI to work together to promote awareness of the goals of the Roots & Shoots program and to develop programs in schools throughout the area. This collaboration, which is still in effect almost twenty years later, has made a profound difference in my life and the lives of a generation of students and teachers. Watching Jane set an example by leading scores of students and teachers around Danbury and neighboring towns to pick up trash and litter was a memorable teaching moment. It left its mark on the University and its faculty, and through them continues to raise awareness about Jane’s work and her world-wide mission.

    There were few Roots & Shoots programs twenty years ago. Today the number of programs around the world is truly impressive as Jane travels tirelessly to bring her message of hope through education and action to young people everywhere.

    In 1995, the same year that JGI and WestConn agreed to work together, I was invited to join the Executive Committee of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP). The IAUP is an association of approximately 600 University and College Presidents around the world whose purpose is to strengthen the international mission of higher education. It provides a regular forum for higher education leaders to identify and discuss the major issues facing higher education today. Concern for the environment and the issue of world peace are high on their agenda. Jane’s work inspired me to promote her efforts to the Association. The IAUP meets every three years in a Triennial General Assembly. Jane was invited to speak at the Triennial in Brussels where she was so effective that she was invited to participate in another Triennial Conference six years later, the only speaker ever asked to make a repeat performance.

    Her message continues to be heard and acted upon throughout Universities around the world. In February 2014, the Executive Committee met in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to plan for the Triennial to be held this June in Yokohama, Japan. It was not surprising, therefore, that peace and environmental concerns were discussed as the program for the meeting was being finalized and that Jane’s name and accomplishments found their way into the conversation. So her voice continues to resonate in the academic community around the globe. Thank you, Jane, and Happy Birthday!

    James R. Roach was the President of Western Connecticut State University; he continues to be active in many professional and academic organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, for which he is a member of the Board of Directors.