Spring 2010: Of Note
Forces of Nature
Alumni leave a legacy of environmentalism
By Mary J. Loftus
Thinking green on Emory’s campus is nothing new: a number of late alumni were well-known environmentalists, among them Charles Wharton 48C, adjunct research associate at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Ecology, who wrote The Natural History of the Blue Ridge and was a powerful force for conservation, and sociologist Howard Washington Odum 1904C, father of noted ecologists Gene and Tom Odum. Their work continues to spread ripples of awareness long after their deaths.
Perhaps the best known, however, was George Page 57C, from the rural community of Hartwell, Georgia, who was the creator and host of the award-winning public television series Nature.
When the wildlife and natural history show first aired in 1982, viewers listened to Page’s deep voice telling in-depth stories of the wonders of the natural world, from condors to ice bears to Komodo dragons.
Page helped the Nature team develop a signature look and feel for the series. “Nature is never flashy,” said executive producer Fred Kaufman in a tribute to Page on PBS.com. “The music and effects are very studied, intelligent.”
A journalist and broadcaster for more than fifty years, Page wanted to educate viewers without “sermonizing,” so Nature did more showing than telling, with spectacular footage of wild animals and their habitats. The show became one of PBS’s most popular, highest-rated, and most enduring series, receiving two Emmy Awards for informational series.
In 1990, Emory awarded Page a Doctorate of Humane Letters “for his contributions to science education in the United States.”
Forced by health problems to retire in 1998, Page turned his attention to writing, completing the book Inside the Animal Mind, which became a three-part miniseries.
Page died in 2006 at age seventy-one in Equinunk, Pennsylvania, leaving his lifelong partner, Dennis De Stefano, and a generation of devoted fans.
The Emmy- and Peabody-Award–winning natural history series he started continues bringing the wonder of nature to new generations with up-close and unusual content.
The topic of a recent episode? The plight of Mephitidae, the misunderstood skunk family.