Greg Spaid's Tribute to Ray Heithaus

Owl Creek Conservancy Bids Farewell to Longtime Board President - Ray Heithaus

Ray was honored at the Owl Creek Annual Meeting on June 25, 2023.

Tribute by Gregory Spaid, Board Trustee.

Earl Raymond Heithaus – Ray to us – we would like to take this moment at the close of your last meeting as President of the Owl Creek Conservancy -- the land trust you helped found and worked tirelessly to sustain -- to honor you.

We honor you for the principle role you played in this conservancy, as well as for many other initiatives you championed that made our community a heathier place in which to live, a place where the agricultural heritage of Knox County has a better chance to continue to future generations, where children -- and the rest of us -- have more places to be in nature and to learn from the natural world, a place where the beautiful Kokosing River will continue to run clean and clear into the future. Ray, you have created a legacy, and we are here to thank you for all you have done for our community.

You first arrived in Knox County in 1964 as a freshman at Kenyon College. After graduating at the top of your class, Magna cum Laude with the Highest Honors in Biology, you went on to Stanford University where you conducted tropical ecology research in Costa Rica, then earned your Ph.D. in 1973. That rhymes, Ray, -- Ph.D. in ’73 -- and so does much of your life. Rhymes and harmonizes.

After Stanford you taught at Northwestern University before returning to Knox County in1980 to join the Biology Department at Kenyon College, where your exceptional talents were formally recognized when, in 1995, you were awarded the Philip and Sheila Jordan Professorship in Environmental Studies and Biology. At Kenyon you dedicated yourself to teaching and research, while also applying your knowledge, collaborative spirit, and leadership talents to preserving and protecting the natural environment of Knox County.

Here are a few examples:  You worked on our county’s Land Use Task Force in 1996; you were a founder of the Brown Family Environmental Center in 1997: you worked to secure the designation of Ohio’s State Scenic River for the Kokosing in 1997; and in 2000, you were a founder of our own Owl Creek Conservancy

I’m sure you would be the first to say you did not do these things alone. Yes, you had help from others, including many of your friends in this room. And you were supported by your family. Your wife, Pat Heithaus, also a biologist, teacher and naturalist, worked at your side on many of these endeavors. And -- perhaps to prove your life does rhyme and harmonize -- your two sons, Mike and Dave, have built their own careers around a devotion to the natural word similar to yours and Pat’s. Mike as an ecologist and filmmaker at Florida International University. Dave as the Director of Green Initiatives at Kenyon College. Celebrating, studying and preserving the natural world is a family affair.

To close, here are some of the words of gratitude and praise your friends and colleagues have offered to describe you:

“He brought people together . . .”

“ . . . inexhaustible creativity and clear vision . . .”

“. . . his easy-going manner as well as his always positive attitude . . .”

“His work at the BFEC and the OCC has been invaluable . . .”

“Ray has been a rock in tough times, he’s a wise and patient teacher and just plain, good company.”  

“. . . he always found a way to get it done! ”

“He . . . ensured a legacy of young people growing up knowing, loving and caring for our nature, perhaps the most important gift of all.”

And finally:

“Hats off to Ray!”