We are thrilled to announce the establishment of a new fund to support student internships on the Forest. Bruce Roberts, Ph.D., and his wife Ginny Roberts of Delaware, Ohio, recently gave a generous gift to the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory to establish the Bruce and Ginny Roberts Duke Forest Internship Fund to support a student intern each year for the next decade.
Bruce, with a master’s and Ph.D. in Forestry from the Duke School of Forestry (now the Nicholas School of the Environment), shared with us how Duke transformed his life and career. It started one eventful weekend in the late 50s when he traveled up to Durham for a football game from Fayetteville, where he was stationed in the U.S. Army.
While exploring the campus, Roberts encountered a friendly figure named Leon “Lee” Chaiken, the second director of the Duke Forest, a professor of Forest management, and a former Army captain in WWII. They struck up a conversation and found they had much in common. Chaiken, who was intrigued by Bruce’s interest in the outdoors, suggested he pursue a master’s degree in forestry.
After this chance encounter, Bruce applied and was accepted at Duke. He flourished here under the mentorship of botanist Dr. Paul Kramer, a renowned expert in plant-water relationships and tree physiology. He spent most of his time in the greenhouses behind the Biology/Forestry building (now the Social Sciences building on Abele Quad), but he enjoyed visiting the Duke Forest for dendrology classes and for walking the trails. He even has memories of walking with his first child through the pines.
After pursuing a Ph.D. at Duke too, Bruce’s career unfolded at the USDA, in the first cohort of scientists attempting to understand Dutch Elm disease. It was at the USDA where Bruce met Ginny. Eventually, after retiring in 1989, he transitioned to Ohio Wesleyan University as an adjunct professor in Botany and Microbiology, a position he held for 30 years until 2019.
Bruce’s commitment to education and his understanding of the financial challenges of graduate school on students inspired him and his wife Ginny to support student internships. “When I went back to grad school, I had really no support financially,” Bruce said. “I just feel a strong need to try to help students that are interested in advancing their careers in grad school.” The couple are grateful for Duke’s role in Bruce’s career and in bringing them together at the USDA. With the Bruce and Ginny Roberts Duke Forest Internship Fund, they are continuing a succession of encouragement and support that all started with a chance encounter.
Duke Forest summer interns, in close collaboration with our field team, actively participate in the hands-on management of this multi-use forest, supporting timber management, invasive species control, trail maintenance, road and vehicle upkeep, infrastructure improvements, and engagement initiatives. We will be posting the first Roberts Fund-supported summer internship on our website soon.
A few of our past summer interns