The Board and Staff of the Center for Humans and Nature are deeply saddened by the death of the Center’s Founder and President, Strachan Donnelley, Ph.D. (1942–2008). Strachan combined several vocations as a writer, an educator, and a builder and supporter of organizations in service to the common good. He was at once a conservationist, philanthropist, and philosopher; and he was also a man of remarkable love, dedication, and care for his family, friends, and colleagues. Fly fishing and music were Strachan’s passions and Verdi’s Requiem, his anthem. He spent his life ardently pursuing an understanding of the appropriate relationships between humans and nature. He came to see humans as utterly dependent on nature and argued forcefully against setting human beings apart from the natural world. He drew many of his own insights not only from the life sciences but also from the study of the history of philosophy, and in particular his work with his mentor, Hans Jonas, at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research.
After working for many years at The Hastings Center and serving as its second President from 1996–1999, Strachan founded the Center for Humans and Nature in 2003. He gave that organization the vision and financial support necessary to extend the work of collaboration and open intellectual exploration of fundamental ideas and values. We are grateful to him, have been graced by our association with him, and stand ready to carry on and extend the work he began.
As a philanthropist Strachan supported numerous civic and educational organizations. He served on several boards of trustees, including those of the New School University, the University of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and the Land Institute. He also served on the Board of the foundation created by his parents, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, and was Chairman of the Board from 1992 to 2003.
We extend our condolences to Strachan’s wife Vivian; his five daughters, Inanna Donnelley, Naomi Donnelley, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Ceara Donnelley Berry, and Tegan Donnelley, and five grandchildren; his brother, Elliott; sister Laura; and the rest of his family. A public memorial gathering will be held at the Art Institute of Chicago at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 19, and a second memorial gathering will be held in New York City in the fall.
Gerald Adelmann, Chairman
Brooke Hecht, Acting President
Center for Humans and Nature
This obituary appeared in the New York Times on July 17, 2008—Ed.