An Enduring Love of the Forest

Mary and Judd Edeburn M.F.’72 show their appreciation for Duke Forest with a well-planned gift.

For a half century, Mary and Judd Edeburn M.F.’72 have worked, played, grown and dreamed in Duke Forest. They even built their home nearby. Now retired, they have more time to observe its ever-changing landscape and notice the increasing demands on it.

The Edeburns love staying involved. Though they once circled the globe, they don’t travel extensively now because they find so many fascinating things to see and helpful things to do right outside their door.

Judd was the resource manager of Duke Forest for 36 years. He knows the more than 7,000 acres as well as anyone —flora and fauna, nook and cranny. When the forest staff has a question about a past project, they know they can call on Judd. Now as adjunct professor with the Nicholas School of the Environment, Judd has moved from managing to being a user of Duke’s oldest and largest classroom.

Through years of nature journaling and participating the forest’s Volunteer Photography Program, Mary is in tune with Duke Forest’s subtle details: the patterns of a butterfly’s wing, the sheen of a bluebird’s feathers, the velvety feel of a sycamore leaf. She’s happiest when working with children to foster a love of nature and learning.

When the couple began work on their wills, making a lasting impact was important to them. Judd says, “Our thinking was, ‘Let’s do something that can help the forest continue its mission into the future.’” Inspired, Judd and Mary started a conversation with the Duke Forest director and others. The result is a bequest that will provide a resource the director can target to important but harder to fund areas. That type of gift shows a deep understanding of the value of adaptability in managing a living asset serving many constituencies.

“The forest is a resource that so many people have benefited from and continue to benefit from,” Judd says, “The scientific community, the many students who have gained experience on the Duke Forest, the public that’s gotten to use the Forest.”

They love that their bequest will likely benefit that broad spectrum of individuals and areas—a multiplier effect, as they see it. That and the flexibility of a planned gift made it very appealing. The fact that the process was easy and no-pressure made a difference too.

“We wanted to plant a seed,” Mary says. “The challenge we had was that we’re people of relatively ordinary means. We thought, ‘Given that, how can we have an impact?’ When you look at the Forest, the bang for the buck is huge.”

TAGS: Charitable Giving Strategies Giving and Impact Stories bequests

About the author

Greg Jenkins

Greg’s work includes publications, proposals, reports, collateral materials and web content. He joined University Development in July 2012 after a stint with Duke Medicine Marketing & Creative Services. Before that, Greg worked as editor of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, and spent more than a decade as a sportswriter covering everything from Little League to ACC basketball. A North Carolina native and lifelong resident, he holds a BA in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and lives in Durham with his wonderful wife and two young sons.