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Ora E. Anderson Scholarship honors Appalachian conservationist, author

Local residents, friends and family of Ora E. Anderson came together Saturday to honor theAnderson's bird carvings on display during the May 12th event work and legacy of the well known regional nature enthusiast and journalist. The event was held at Wayne National Forest Headquarters on Rt. 33 near Nelsonville, Ohio.

Anderson, who wrote many articles for Bird Watcher’s Digest and promoted conservation education, helped steward the recovery of vast woodland areas in Southeast Ohio that became the Wayne National Forest. He died August 16, 2006, at the age of 94. May 14 was the date chosen for the event because of its significance as International Migratory Bird Day and Anderson’s own passion for the hobby.

During the event, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) announced the Ora E. Anderson Scholarship Fund, established by the Foundation through a charitable gift made by anonymous donors. Initially, individual scholarship awards of $2,500 each will be given to two students in recognition of overall commitment to environmental protection and conservation.

“In short, we wish to have Ora remembered not just for what he did, but for the friend he was to us and to so many others,” wrote the anonymous donors of the scholarship fund.

The scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis to students who reside in and are graduating from high schools located within the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio. Applicants should aspire to pursue post-secondary studies associated with the natural sciences, including: forest and wildlife management; environmental restoration; natural and historical interpretation; ecotourism and related disciplines associated with protecting plants, animals and the environment. The Foundation anticipates the first awards to be made in spring 2008. The scholarship fund is endowed with the expectation the fund will continue to grow with future contributions.

“This scholarship is just one more way to honor the legacy of Ora and his commitment to conservation education in Appalachian Ohio,” said Leslie Lilly, FAO President and CEO. “Offering these kinds of opportunities for students in our region is crucial to their success.”

The event also celebrated the release of “Out of the Woods: A Bird Watcher’s Year,” a collection of 59 essays and poems written by Anderson before his death that have been compiled into this book, published by the Ohio University Press.

Jean Andrews of Ohio Landscape Productions, who was instrumental in the creation of Anderson’s book, recalled her friendship with Ora and the initial phone call that jump- started the project. A number of Anderson’s personal bird carvings were on display during the program, and several family members, friends and colleagues spoke about Ora and his work, including his daughter Jan Leonard.

“I think his (Anderson’s) greatest contribution was his ability to take you where he had been in his writing,” said Leonard after reading an excerpt from “Out of the Woods.” “When you grow up with someone, you usually don’t realize how wonderful they are.”

Mary Reddan, supervisor of the Wayne National Forest, commented on how the wildlife of the Wayne represents Anderson’s passion and life work.

“His legacy is the wildlife, the birds coming back every spring,” Reddan said. “The trails of the forest and the wildlife are everything Ora cared about.”

Make an online donation to the Ora E. Anderson Scholarship fund or contact the Foundation at 740-753-1111 for more information.