Presidents of the Thoreau Society
A Proud Tradition
Rochelle Johnson, 2020-
Ron Hoag, 2018-2020
Michael Schleifer, 2012-2018
Thomas A. Potter, 2006-2012
Robert N. Hudspeth, 2004-2006
Ronald A. Bosco, 2000-2004
Elizabeth H. Witherell, 1996-2000
Joel Myerson, 1992-1996
Edmund A. Schofield, 1990-1992
Thomas W. Blanding, 1988-1990
Michael Meyer, 1986-1988
Frederick Wagner, 1984-1986
Ann Zwinger, 1982-1984
John McAleer, 1981-1982
Anne Root McGrath, 1980-1981
Dana McLean Greeley, 1979-1980
Wendell Glick, 1978-1979
Paul O. Williams, 1977-1978
W. Stephen Thomas, 1976-1977
Eugene A. Walker, 1975-1976
William L. Howarth, 1974-1975
Herbert Uhlig, 1973-1974
Frederick McGill, Jr., 1972-1973
Leonard Kleinfeld, 1971-1972
Albert Bussewitz, 1970-1971
Charles R. Anderson, 1969-1970
Henry Beetle Hough, 1968-1969
Reginald L. Cook, 1967-1968
G. Russell Ready, 1966-1967
Gladys Hosmer, 1965-1966
Roland Robbins, 1964-1965
Walter Harding, 1963-1964
Theodore L. Bailey, 1962-1963
Lewis Leary, 1961-1962
Carl Bode, 1960-1961
Paul Oehser, 1959-1960
J. Lyndon Shanley, 1958-1959
Howard Zahniser, 1956-1957
Herbert F. West, 1955-1956
Raymond Adams, 1941-1955
Raymond Adams was a founder of the Thoreau Society, and he served as its first president from 1941 to 1955. Born in Elgin, Illinois, Adams was a graduate of Beloit College and of the University of North Carolina, where he taught English from 1924 until 1968. His dissertation on “The Literary Apprenticeship of Henry Thoreau” was one of the first on the subject. Adams spent a lifetime gathering together a large collection of Thoreauviana. In the mid-1930s, he began distributing a mimeographed “Thoreau Newsletter” that helped generate more research. He wrote a number of articles but generally disliked the publishing process. Look up Thoreau in the Dictionary of American Biography, and you’ll read a sample of Adams’ writing, indicated by the initials “R.W.A” at the end of the entry. He intended to write a definitive Thoreau biography and collected much material for the work, but never completed it. Raymond Adams’ collection of Thoreauviana and correspondence is on file in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute.
Charles R. Anderson was the sixteenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Macon, Ga., he was a first-cousin-once-removed of American poet Sidney Lanier. He earned degrees at the University of Georgia and Columbia University, and taught at Georgia and Duke before joining the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in 1941. There he was the general editor of the Centennial Edition of the works of Sidney Lanier — a ten-volume work that set a standard for subsequent collected works of American authors. He served as president of the Melville Society in 1956. After taking an early retirement from Johns Hopkins, Anderson devoted his time to writing and to international lecturing. The Magic Circle of Walden was released in 1968, followed by Thoreau’s World: Miniatures from his Journal in 1971, and Thoreau’s Vision: The Major Essays in 1973. It is unfortunate that Anderson was in England at the time of the 1970 annual meeting, and so was unable to deliver his presidential address to the membership.
Theodore L. Bailey was the ninth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in North Scituate, Mass., he was a Harvard graduate who eventually relocated to Cleveland. He spent three years as a newspaper reporter for several Cleveland newspapers; then worked for the McDonald & Company investment house, where he eventually gained partner status. He was considered to be an expert on Thoreau and built a substantial collection of first editions and Thoreauviana.
Thomas W. Blanding was the 32nd president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Worcester, Tom first read Emerson and Thoreau as a student at Grafton High School, at a time and place where he truly connected with the philosophy of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” He studied at Marlboro College and the New England Conservatory of Music and is known for playing a mean jazz trumpet. He spent six years working with the Princeton edition project of Thoreau’s works, and for years he was the editor of the Concord Saunterer, then published by the Thoreau Foundation. When development threatened Walden Woods in the 1980s, Tom (together with Ed Schofield and others) formed the Thoreau Country Conservation Alliance. Nationwide publicity of that group’s efforts led to a phone call from Don Henley of the Eagles, and the rest, as they say, is Walden Woods Project history. Tom is the author of Historic Walden Woods and coauthor of A Thoreau Iconography and has published more than 70 articles about Thoreau, Concord, or the Transcendentalists. He is an independent Thoreau scholar and historian who lives in Acton and continues to lecture in the greater Concord area.
Carl Bode was the seventh president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Milwaukee, he earned degrees at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University and began his teaching career at Milwaukee Vocational School. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II; then spent a year at UCLA before moving to the University of Maryland, where he was a professor of English from 1947 to 1982. He served as the cultural attaché at the American embassy in London from 1957 to 1959. He was involved in a variety of academic organizations and founded the Mencken Society, serving as its president from 1976-1979. While he authored ten books on a variety of popular culture topics, he is best known for his editorship of volumes of Thoreau’s work, as well as that of Emerson and H.L.Mencken. Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau was first printed in 1943, then enlarged and re-released in 1964. The Portable Thoreau appeared in 1947, with a revised edition in 1964. Together with Walter Harding, Bode edited The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, which was published in 1958. Each of these titles is still used by Thoreau readers today. Carl Bode’s papers are on file at the Archival and Manuscript Collections at the University of Maryland Libraries.
Ronald A. Bosco was the 36th president of the Thoreau Society. Ron earned degrees at Fairfield University, Purdue University, and the University of Maryland. He has taught in the department of English at the University of Albany since 1975. A founding member of the Emerson Society (1989), Ron is known as a leading expert on the works and life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and has edited numerous collections of Emerson’s writings. Since 1977, he has been the editor of the Emerson Family Papers at the Houghton Library of Harvard University. He was president of the Emerson Society for its 1996-97 term. He selected quotes from Thoreau for The Illuminated Walden: In the Footsteps of Thoreau (2002) and Nature’s Panorama: Thoreau on the Seasons (2005). Ron lives in Concord, Mass.
Albert Bussewitz was the seventeenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born on a 160-acre farm in Juneau. Wisconsin, he spent much of his childhood exploring the natural world around him. He graduated from Northwestern College in Watertown, Wis., entered Lutheran theological training, and later attended the University of Wisconsin. There his professor of wildlife management was Aldo Leopold. After completing his studies, Bussewitz came east and settled in Rochester, N.Y., where he worked for Bausch and Lomb and in his spare time founded the Genesee Ornithological Society. In 1949, he became the director of the Moose Hill Sanctuary in Sharon, Mass., under the auspices of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. He later worked with the Stony Brook Sanctuary in Norfolk and the Rocky Knoll Nature Center in Milton. An avid photographer, he was named a Master Member of the New England Camera Club Council in 1980. During his retirement years, he volunteered at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, where he was well known for his knowledge of the natural environment and for his love of words. His favorite topic for a talk was “Through the Seasons with Thoreau.”
Reginald Lansing Cook was the fourteenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Mendon, Mass., he earned degrees at Middlebury College and Oxford University. He began his teaching profession at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania, but moved to Middlebury College in 1929 and spent the majority of his career at that site, teaching American literature and reaching the status of professor emeritus in 1969. His most popular books were about Vermont or Robert Frost, though he also published Passage to Walden and Selected Prose and Poetry of Emerson earlier in his career. He was happy to “have the Green Mountains always within sight and shouting distance.”
Wendell Glick was the 25th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he earned degrees at Bridgewater College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Northwestern University. He began his teaching career at Northwestern but eventually moved to the University of Minnesota at Duluth, where he spent the majority of his professional life. Glick contributed greatly to the Princeton editions project, releasing The Reform Papers of Henry Thoreau in 1973. He also edited The Recognition of Henry David Thoreau and Great Short Works of Henry David Thoreau, and was the co-editor of the periodical Thoreau Quarterly.
Dana McLean Greeley was the 26th president of the Thoreau Society. orn in Lexington, Mass., Greeley studied at Harvard and its Divinity School and was ordained as a Unitarian minister in 1932. When the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America merged in 1962, Greeley became the first president of the new organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association. He served as a minister in churches in Lincoln; Concord, N.H.: and Boston before being the minister at the First Parish Church in Concord, Mass., from 1970 to 1986. He was an active campaigner for civil rights and world peace, and marched in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. He founded an interfaith organization called the World Conference of Religion and Peace. As a member of the Thoreau Society, he chaired the committee that merged the Thoreau Lyceum with the Society. He also had several books to his credit, including the booklet titled Know these Concordians: 24 Minute Biographies.
Walter Harding was the 10th president of the Thoreau Society, but is much better known as one of the founders of the organization as well as its long-time secretary and newsletter editor. Born in Bridgewater, Mass., he earned degrees at Bridgewater State, the University of North Carolina, and Rutgers University. After several years of teaching at Rutgers and at the University of Virginia, Harding landed in 1956 at the State University of New York College at Geneseo, where he rose through the ranks of the English department, eventually gaining emeritus status in 1982. Together with Raymond Adams, he helped to found the Thoreau Society in 1941. He was its secretary for 50 years, retiring from that position at the jubilee celebration in 1991. He issued the newsletter, the Thoreau Society Bulletin, and was responsible for maintaining one of its ongoing and salient features, the Thoreau bibliography. He lectured in Japan, Norway, Iceland, France, Spain and Germany. For more than 10 years, he conducted teacher seminars in Concord, with the help of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Harding wrote more than 70 articles, hundreds of reviews, and published more than 30 books. His works include the most complete Thoreau biography to date, The Days of Henry Thoreau, and (together with Carl Bode) the most comprehensive volume of Thoreau letters, The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau. In 1965, Harding also began the Princeton edition project, called The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, which had as its goal to make available accurate texts of all of Henry’s writings in 30 volumes. He was the project’s editor-in-chief for eight years. Upon his passing, Beth Witherell said, “Walter brought Henry Thoreau to more people around the world than any other single individual. He did this not only by writing books and articles, but also by founding the two most significant organizations focused on Thoreau – The Thoreau Society and the Thoreau Edition. We’ve lost a whole library of Thoreauviana with Walt’s passing. … We can no longer share Thoreau with him; the best tribute we can offer to Walt is to follow his example and share Thoreau with one another.” While the bulk of Walter Harding’s writings and correspondence are on file in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute. Some materials are also located in the Collections of Milne Library, SUNY Geneseo.
Ronald W. Hoag (1946- ) was the 40th president of the Thoreau Society. Born and raised 17 miles from Concord, he came to Walden first, as a boy, to fish for the stocked trout that replaced Thoreau’s pout, pickerel, and perch. He later got hooked on the literary Walden at Middlebury College—home now to Henry’s personal copy—in a class taught by Reginald L. Cook, author of Passage to Walden and the 14th president of the Thoreau Society. “Doc” Cook infectiously preached “the tonic joy of H.D.T.” and Hoag caught the spirit. At UNC-Chapel Hill, Hoag’s dissertation on Thoreau was the last directed by the 8th president of the Society, Lewis Leary, whose final course before retirement, “Emerson and His Circle,” included a “cocktail of the week” at the Leary home—another imbibing of spirited tonic joy. For more than 35 years Hoag taught, and published on, various American authors while a professor at East Carolina University. His publications and lectures on Thoreau have focused, especially, on The Maine Woods essay “Ktaadn,” about which he offered a revisionist interpretation, and (with Bradley Dean and alone) on Henry’s conflicted career as a lecturer during the lyceum movement. Joining the Thoreau Society in 1979, Hoag served as a board member for 22 years in all. He edited the first seven issues of The Concord Saunterer (1993-1999) in its expanded book-length format. Memorable experiences catalyzed by The Thoreau Society include a two-week tracing of Thoreau’s Maine Woods/Katahdin excursions with Dana Brigham and Parker Huber, author of The Wildest Country: A Guide to Thoreau’s Maine, long a Northwoods classic; also a more recent adventure on wild-waved Moosehead Lake requiring canoes lashed catamaran-style and the stern-man skills of Penobscot Nation moose hunter Chris “Charlie Brown” Francis, thereafter a “forever friend”; also a memorable near week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers with Walt Harding, nature writer/“woodswoman” Anne LaBastille, and other companionable companions; also two eye-opening collaborations with Maine filmmaker Huey on his Wilderness and Spirit, A Mountain Called Katahdin and Henry David Thoreau, Surveyor of the Soul productions. Hoag is particularly proud of his work, on and off the board, to help save Thoreau’s Virginia Road birth house, during which he came to know and admire Concord’s Joseph Wheeler, that preservation movement’s foremost pioneer advocate.
Gladys Hosmer was the twelfth president of the Thoreau Society, and the first female president of the Society. She earned degrees at Radcliffe College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A noted Concord historian, Hosmer was one of the seven founders of the present-day incarnation of the Concord Academy. She was appointed the first Chairman of Concord Records and Archives in 1955, and remained active on the committee for the rest of her life. Her additional affiliations included the Concord Antiquarian Society and the Women’s National Farm & Garden Association. The town hearse — the same vehicle that carried Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott and Hawthorne to their resting places — was used for Hosmer’s funeral, and made its way slowly from Trinity Episcopal Church to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery as the First Parish Church bell tolled 83 times in honor of Hosmer’s life. Before that day, the historic hearse had last been used in 1935 for Concord’s 300th anniversary celebration. Hosmer led the Save Walden Committee to win a 1960 court battle when the state supreme court declared that the county commissioners could not alter or destroy the Walden Pond shoreline.
Henry Beetle Hough was the fifteenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in New Bedford, Mass., Hough earned a degree in literature from Columbia University. The year he graduated (1918), he received a special Pulitzer Prize for a paper he wrote with a fellow student. In 1920, Hough moved to Edgartown, Mass., and began editing the weekly Vineyard Gazette. He was known for his descriptions of the nature on Martha’s Vineyard and for his opposition to development on the island. Hough contributed a number of short stories to national magazines. He sold the newspaper in 1968 but remained on staff as the editor. During his career, he wrote more than two dozen books, including several titles for children. Thoreau of Walden was published in 1956.
William L. Howarth was the 21st president of the Thoreau Society. Raised in the Midwest, he holds degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Virginia. Since 1966 he has taught at Princeton University, focusing on 19th and 20th century literature, literary nonfiction, and environmental humanities. His thirteen books include Nature in American Life, The John McPhee Reader, The Book of Concord, Traveling the Trans-Canada, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, andWalking with Thoreau. He has contributed essays and reviews to National Geographic, Smithsonian,Preservation, Civilization, American Scholar, and the New York Times. An early proponent of ecocriticism, he served on the editorial board of Environmental History, chaired the board of The Center for American Places, and presently serves on the executive committee of the Princeton Environmental Institute. In 1972-80 he was editor in chief of The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, and he continues today as a member of its editorial board.
Robert N. Hudspeth was the 37th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Sweetwater, Texas, Bob holds degrees from the University of Texas and Syracuse University. He began working as an English professor at the University of Washington at Seattle, and then moved to The Pennsylvania State University. Later he became Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Redlands in California and taught there until 2002. Among Bob’s most important works are his six-volume edition of The Letters of Margaret Fuller, as well as a one-volume compilation titledMy Heart is a Large Kingdom: Selected Letters of Margaret Fuller. He also wrote a biography of Ellery Channing and is editing Thoreau’s Correspondence for the Princeton Edition. Bob is currently a Research Professor of English at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.
Leonard F. Kleinfeld was the eighteenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Manhattan, he first came to Thoreau by reading Walden and Cape Cod in his late teens. Walden became his “bedside bible,” and he vowed to never lead a life of quiet desperation. A trip to Walden Pond in 1919 made him a Thoreauvian for life. He studied at New York University but was known for being self-schooled and hard-working. Finding work as an importer-exporter, Kleinfeld was able to travel around the world and to start Thoreau groups in such countries as France, England, Japan, and Argentina. He visited the Channel Islands in order to complete a Thoreau genealogy. He was notable for his large Thoreau library and collection of Thoreauviana, which included stones from the Walden house and boards from the Texas house.
Rochelle L. Johnson has served on the Board of Directors since 2015. A native of Waltham, Massachusetts, she is Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Gipson Honors Program at The College of Idaho. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching honored her with an award for her teaching. She has published essays on the environmental-literary tradition, archival studies, and place-based pedagogy. The author of Passions for Nature: Nineteenth-Century America’s Aesthetics of Alienation (2009), she is co-editor of four volumes: Essays on Nature and Landscape by Susan Fenimore Cooper (2002), Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on Rural Hours and Other Works (2001), Rural Hours , by Susan Fenimore Cooper (U of Georgia, 1998), and Reading the Earth: New Directions in the Study of Literature and the Environment (1998). Her essays treating Thoreau appear in Thoreau in an Age of Crisis: Uses and Abuses of an American Icon (2021), Thoreau Beyond Borders (2021), Wiley’s Companion to American Literature: Vol. II: 1820-1914 (2020), Thoreau at Two Hundred: Essays and Reassessments (with Samantha C. Harvey, 2016), and other journals and collections. A past president and board member of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), she has also served on the board of directors for the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History and on the advisory boards of the James Fenimore Cooper Society and the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. She enjoys hiking, kayaking and canoeing, yoga, gardening, and running, as well as spending time with her family.
Lewis G. Leary was the eighth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Blauvelt, NY, Leary earned degrees at the University of Vermont and Columbia University. His teaching career included service at American University in Beirut, the University of Miami, Duke University, Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 1976 to 1990, he was a field editor for Twayne Publishers. He wrote, edited, or was a contributor to more than 40 books in the area of American literature, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson: An Interpretive Essay and Henry David Thoreau: Selected Writings. He surveyed Thoreau’s scholarship in Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism.
John J. McAleer was the 28th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Cambridge, he earned degrees at Boston College and at Harvard, and he taught English literature at Boston College for decades. During World War II, he was stationed in India and became acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi, who quoted the words of Emerson to the young man. McAleer would go on to write biographies of both Emerson and Thoreau (Artist and Citizen Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson: Days of Encounter). Much of his writing dealt with the life and works of author Rex Stout. McAleer was known as a man with a story for every occasion.
Frederick T. McGill, Jr. was the nineteenth president and a charter member of the Thoreau Society. Born in Massachusetts, he earned degrees at Harvard and Columbia, and joined the English faculty at Rutgers, where he reached the post of Dean of Humanities. Fred is best known to Thoreauvians for authoring Channing of Concord: A Life of William Ellery Channing II and for writing articles about Thoreau and Channing. For more than seventy years, and including the last year of his life at the age of 98, Fred’s summers were spent at the Star Island Religious and Educational Conference Center on the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast. He and his first wife Virginia joined the staff of the conference center in 1951. Together they also penned the book Something Like a Star: A Rather Personal View of the Star Island Conference Center. Over the years, Fred served as associate manager, historian, storyteller, and keeper of the flame on Star Island. His devotion to the spirit of the coast can be seen in the opening lines of his poem “Gosport Harbor,” written in 1931: “Put in to port, the Shoals are calling; / Come where the lighthouse gleams. / Put in to port, and furl your sails, / And lose yourself in dreams.”
Anne (Root) McGrath was the 27th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Concord, she attended Concord Academy and the Concord public schools and graduated from Stoneleigh-Prospect Hill School in Greenfield, MA. She attended Radcliffe College. In 1968, she became the curator of the Thoreau Lyceum on Belknap Street, and she held this position until her retirement in 1994. According to the Concord Journal, “this job became her life, and she was well known as an expert on Henry Thoreau. Scholars traveled from all over the world to the Lyceum to benefit from her expertise, and she was invited to speak about Thoreau in many places in New England.” Students and adults were “enchanted by what she told them about her friend Henry. Because her father spoke of Thoreau in such an intimate manner, as a child, she thought that he was a relative.” Many a present-day fan of Thoreau has fond memories of visiting the Lyceum and meeting Anne.
Michael Meyer was the 31st president of the Thoreau Society. Born in New Jersey, he earned degrees at William Paterson University and the University of Connecticut. Professor of English at the University of Connecticut since 1981, he has also taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the College of William and Mary. He has lectured on Thoreau and related topics from Boston to Beijing. In 1977, his book Several More Lives to Live: Thoreau’s Political Reputation in America was awarded the Ralph Henry Gabriel prize by the American Studies Association. In 1980, Michael coauthored with Walter Harding The New Thoreau Handbook. In addition to writing articles and editions focusing on Thoreau’s works, he is the author of The Bedford Introduction to Literature as well as a number of other textbooks.
Joel Myerson was the 34th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Boston, he earned degrees at Tulane University and Northwestern University. Joel is Carolina Distinguished Professor of American Literature, Emeritus, of the University of South Carolina, and author or editor of over fifty books on American Romanticism. In addition to publishing the standard bibliographies of Emerson’s and Whitman’s writings, he has also edited Critical Essays on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1988),Emerson and Thoreau: The Contemporary Reviews (1992), The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau (1995), and Transcendentalism: A Reader (2000).
Paul H. Oehser was the sixth president of the Thoreau Society. orn in Cherry Creek, NY, Oehser (pronounced O-zher) graduated from Greenville College and also studied at the University of Iowa and American University. He spent his career as an editor at several federal offices, beginning with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Biological Survey in 1925. He joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1931, and he served as its Editorial and Publication Division chief and public relations officer from 1950 until 1966. After his retirement, he edited scientific publications for the National Geographic Society until 1978. Oehser wrote five books, including three about the Smithsonian.
Thomas A. Potter was the 38th president of the Thoreau Society. He was born in Indianapolis, but spent part of his childhood in Massachusetts. Tom has been an avid photographer since the 1970s, and now works almost exclusively with large-format black and white film. His creative work has been exhibited in a variety of galleries, and includes the murals on permanent display in Holliday Park in Indianapolis. Tom teaches Thoreau workshops and leads photographic, natural history, and birding tours throughout North and Central America. He is currently working on writing a biography of Edwin Way Teale. Tom lives with his wife Sallie and their two Labrador retrievers in the woods of Morgan County, Indiana.
George Russell Ready was the thirteenth president of the Thoreau Society. Born on a small farm south of Ottawa, Ontario, Ready dropped out of high school at the age of seventeen. He began working for the Bell Telephone Company of Canada in Montreal when he was 20. Fifteen years later, he went back to school and took evening classes. By 1957, he had earned a bachelor’s degree. After 27 years with Bell, and being inspired by reading the words of Thoreau, Ready left the company in order to follow his heart and become a teacher. He taught English at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Roland W. Robbins was the eleventh president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Worcester, Robbins dropped out of high school in 1924, and five years later lost his job because of the Depression. He lived in Vermont for a few years in the 1930s, but returned to his native state later that decade. In 1943, he began researching the Minute Man statue in Concord, and he published a book on that topic two years later. At the annual meeting of the Thoreau Society in 1945, he overheard a dispute about the location of the cairn near Thoreau’s Walden Pond house site. In order to satisfy his own curiosity, he did research and began excavating that site in the fall of 1945. As a self-taught archaeologist, he was able to present his findings in a lecture at the 1946 annual meeting, then released his book Discovery at Walden later that year. Robbins went on to do excavation work at the Saugus Iron Works, Shadwell, Philipsburg Manor, the John Alden House, the Hancock-Clarke House, Strawbery Banke, Oliver Mill, and Munroe Tavern. He was active in establishing the Thoreau Lyceum on Belknap Street in Concord in 1966, and he eventually became involved with Walden Forever Wild. Robbins built his own Thoreau-sized house in his backyard in the 1960s, then built one for the Lyceum (a structure which now sits in the front yard of the Concord Museum), and later built the replica near the parking lot of Walden Pond State Reservation. Robbins reported on his other archaeological work in Hidden America. 2004 marked the release of Donald W. Linebaugh’s biography of Roland Robbins, The Man Who Found Thoreau. Robbins’ field notes, photographs, and documentation from his archaeological explorations are on file in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute.
Michael Schleifer was the 39th President of the Thoreau Society. He has served on the board since 2005, as Treasurer since 2006, and as President since 2012. He is currently the Treasurer. He is a tenured Instructor of Accounting and academic advisor at Hunter College, CUNY and serves as a Principal in Park Avenue CPA Review, LLC and a proprietor of a small accounting and tax practice in Brooklyn, NY. Since joining the Thoreau Society, he has shared his passion for Thoreau with his family, friends, and colleagues.
Edmund Schofield was the 33rd president of the Thoreau Society and was in office for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Society, held concurrently in Concord and Worcester, MA. Born in Worcester, he served in the US Navy and Naval Reserves and holds degrees from Clark University and The Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, he organized the campus’ first-ever Earth Day celebration (1970). Ed has done research in a wide variety of habitats and has held educational positions with such facilities and organizations as the Sierra Club, The Institute of Ecology, and Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. When development threatened Walden Woods in the 1980s, Ed (together with Tom Blanding and others) formed the Thoreau Country Conservation Alliance. Nationwide publicity of that group’s efforts led to a phone call from Don Henley of the Eagles, and the rest, as they say, is Walden Woods Project history. Ed currently serves as the president of the Friends of Thoreau Country. He continues to teach botany and biology classes at academic sites throughout central Massachusetts.
James Lyndon Shanley was the fifth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Allenhurst, NJ, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy and earned both a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in English at Princeton. He joined the faculty at Northwestern University in 1936 and remained there until his retirement in 1978. Shanley Hall, a small building on the Evanston campus, was named in his honor in the 1940s. Though he was trained as a scholar of English Renaissance literature, Shanley made his greatest contribution in the area of American literature. His 1957 bookThe Making of Walden revealed that Thoreau had written eight drafts of the book over the course of a decade. This discovery changed the way many scholars have since viewed Walden. Shanley was also the editor of the Princeton edition of Walden, published in 1971.
Edwin Way Teale was the fourth president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Joliet, Illinois, Teale as a boy spent summers at his grandparents’ farm in Northern Indiana. He became interested in Thoreau when, while boating down the Ohio River after graduation from Earlham College, he found a copy of Thoreau quotes in a book store in a small town along the river. After a brief stint as an instructor of English at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, he became a ghost writer for a syndicated feature columnist. During the ’30s while living in New York City he wrote for Popular Science Magazine. Teale later received a Master’s degree from Columbia University. By the early ’40s Dodd, Meade and Co. became his publisher for the many nature books that would define his career. Teale joined the Thoreau Society in its first decade and regularly attended its annual meetings. In 1946, he released an annotated edition of Walden complete with his own introductions, comments, and photographs. Thoughts of Thoreau, a collection of notable quotations, was published in 1962. Teale is best known to the world for his four books on the American seasons, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1966. He wrote or edited nearly 30 books on natural themes. Naturally quiet and retiring, Teale was remembered as always willing to share a word with any friend of Thoreau or of nature, or to answer a question or to autograph a book. Teale’s papers are located at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut Libraries. Trail Wood, the 168-acre home he made in Connecticut with wife Nellie, is now a sanctuary owned by the Connecticut Audubon Society.
W. Stephen Thomas was the 23rd president of the Thoreau Society. Born in New York City, he spent his childhood making his own zoological collections and helping his father William in his passion for identifying mushrooms. When Thomas graduated from Harvard, his thesis was written on the works of Thoreau. After working for a time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and serving in the US Navy during World War II, Thomas moved to Rochester, New York. There he became the second director of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, the precursor to the present-day Rochester Museum and Science Center. He served as head of that facility until 1968 but continued to work in the museum’s development office until 1974.
Herbert Uhlig was the 20th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Haledon, New Jersey, Uhlig earned degrees at Brown and MIT; and early in his career, he worked as a chemist for Lever Brothers, a research chemist at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and as a research assistant for General Electric. His position as a research assistant at MIT in the 1930s grew into a professorship in the following decades, and eventually Uhlig gained emeritus status in 1972. He helped to establish the Corrosion Division of the Electrochemical Society in 1942 and served as its president in 1955-56. He brought the MIT corrosion laboratory to a level of international prominence, and was known as a meticulous scientist and prolific contributor to professional journals. His success included the Corrosion and Corrosion Control handbook, published in 1948, which was a trusted reference in that field for decades. In 1982, the MIT corrosion laboratory was dedicated in his honor and renamed the H. H. Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory. Uhlig was an enthusiastic outdoorsman who enjoyed mountain climbing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, skiing, skating, and other activities. He and his wife were long-time members of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Frederick Wagner was the 30th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Philadelphia, he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Duke University. After several years of working in the publishing and advertising fields in New York City, Frederick served as a professor of English at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, from 1969 to 1995. He wrote several books for young people, including Patriot’s Choice: The Story of John Hancock. Former students and other individuals established The Frederick Reese Wagner Prize Scholarship in English at Hamilton College, which is awarded for excellence in the study of literature in English. Now retired, Frederick lives in Utica, New York.
Eugene A. Walker was the 22nd president of the Thoreau Society. Born in New York City, he attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and majored in geology at Harvard. As a geologist, he worked in a variety of locations and capacities, including a stint in the tin mines for the Strategic Minerals Agency in Bolivia during World War II. For most of his career, he worked for the Water Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey, where he mapped water yielding formations and found underground water supplies for towns, ranchers, farmers and the general rural public. He settled in Concord, MA, in 1968; and after retirement, he volunteered to serve on the Concord Department of Natural Resources. He wrote many professional papers and popular articles about the area.
Herbert F. West was the second president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Jamaica Plain, Mass., he attended Penn State, Harvard, and Dartmouth. He served in the American Expeditionary Forces of the U.S. Army in 1918-19, and studied in London and Berlin shortly after his stint. He taught literature at Dartmouth from 1925 to 1964, and was professor emeritus there until his death ten years later. West founded Westholm Publications in Hanover, N.H., and was known as a rare book dealer. He authored and edited nearly two dozen books on literary topics and book collecting, including The Nature Writers: A Guide to Richer Reading. Herbert West’s collections and papers are on file at the Rauner Specia Collections Library at Dartmouth College.
Paul O. Williams was the 24th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Chatham, NJ he kept outdoor notebooks as a young boy but didn’t read Walden until he was in college. He was immediately inspired. He graduated with highest scholastic honors as an English major at Principia College in Illinois, then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied the work of the transcendentalists and included Thoreau in his dissertation on transcendental poetry. Paul taught for three years at Duke University before returning to Principia, where he was part of the English faculty for 22 years. In rural Illinois, he helped create the Historic Elsah Foundation, celebrating the history of that small river town, and collaborated on writing several books about the area. Paul had begun writing poetry seriously at the age of 20, and has encouraged the writing of haiku since the 1960s. He is a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and once served as its president (1999). He worked on volumes three and four of the Princeton editions project of Thoreau’s writings. In the late 1970s, Paul began writing science fiction novels; seven of those books form a series called “the Pelbar Cycle.” Paul moved to the west coast in the 1980s, and taught at DeAnza College before retiring in 1997. His latest book, These Audacious Maples, employs a poetic form known as tanka. Paul currently lives in Hayward, California.
Elizabeth Hall Witherell was the 35th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Beth holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. She has taught at Princeton University, Barnard College, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Northern Illinois University. In 1974, she joined the staff of The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, the multivolume definitive edition of Thoreau’s writings, Journal, and correspondence published by Princeton University Press; she became Editor-in-Chief in 1980. Since 2005, she and the Thoreau Edition have been based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Howard Zahniser was the third president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Franklin, Penna., he earned a bachelor’s degree at Greenville (Ill.) College and did postgraduate work at American University and George Washington University. Though he began his professional career in teaching, Zahniser soon found employment in government service in the Department of Commerce, in the Bureau of Biological Survey, and then in its successor agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service. His involvement with the Wilderness Society put him in close contact with such contemporary conservationists as Aldo Leopold and Benton MacKaye. Preservation and natural resource issues in the 1950s and early 1960s became overwhelmingly political. Zahniser wrote and promoted the passage of a federal Wilderness Act, and he testified numerous times on behalf of American wilderness areas. Lyndon Johnson eventually signed the act into effect in September 1964, four months after Zahniser’s death. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall called him the “most dedicated and faithful advocate of the country’s leading conservationists.” Howard Zahniser’s papers are included in the records of the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the federal agencies he once worked for.
Ann (Haymond) Zwinger was the 29th president of the Thoreau Society. Born in Muncie, Indiana, Ann holds degrees from Wellesley College and Indiana University, and did additional studies at Radcliffe College and Colorado College. She is well known as an author and illustrator of nature and ecology books, and considers herself a naturalist, not an environmentalist. Run, River, Run: A Naturalist’s Journey Down One of the Great Rivers of the West won both a John Burroughs Memorial Association award and a Friends of American Writers award in 1976. A Conscious Stillness: Two Naturalists on Thoreau’s Rivers chronicled her exploration of the Sudbury and Assabet rivers with Edwin Way Teale. Ann was the naturalist-in-residence at Carleton College in 1985, and she has taught at a number of additional schools, having been associated with Colorado College for several decades. She makes her home in Colorado Springs.