Clemson forestry professor recognized for championing natural and cultural heritage

November 20, 2020

Drew Lanham, Ph.D., Distinguished Alumni Professor and Provost’s Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University, was recently honored with the William C. Everhart Award by the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of sustained achievements that provide creative insights and that foster an appreciation of our natural and cultural heritage.

William C. Everhart Award recipient Drew Lanham, Ph.D. at the boneyard in Hunting Island State Park.

William C. Everhart Award recipient Drew Lanham, Ph.D.

The Institute for Parks presents the annual awards program, which is named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. The awards are named for visionary leaders who make significant contributions to the management of parks and preservation of our natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

Judy Braus, Executive Director for the North American Association for Environmental Education, said while presenting the award that it is a testament to his outstanding contributions to conservation and education, and to making the world a brighter, kinder and more equitable place for everyone.  

“Drew has been such a wonderful friend to the environmental education community and is such a talented writer, speaker, poet, photographer and influencer,” Braus said. “He inspires all of us to do more and to be braver in helping to break down the systemic racism that has been part of our country since it’s beginning.” 

Clemson University Chief Academic Officer and first Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robert H. Jones said that Dr. Lanham is an extraordinary scholar and an inspiration to all.

“Few people are so capable of reaching across social boundaries to drive home the significance of conservation and nature,” said Provost Jones. “That he does so through both art and science makes him truly unique among America’s contemporary conservation leaders.”

A native of Edgefield and Aiken, SC and a Clemson University faculty member since 1995, Lanham is an internationally respected ornithologist, as well as a naturalist, bird-adorer watcher and conservationist-hunter. He is a past board member of several organizations including the National Audubon Society, Aldo Leopold Foundation, American Birding Association and BirdNote. He is also the former Chairperson of the advisory board for Audubon South Carolina and was a twelve year member of the SC Wildlife Federation, serving as the organization’s affiliate representative for most of that tenure. 

Lanham is also a widely published author and poet. His work shares his passion for place and draws upon personal insights to illuminate personal and societal conflicts that sometimes put conservation and culture at odds. Drew was named the Poet Laureate for Edgefield, South Carolina in 2018 and is the author of Sparrow Envy- Poems and Sparrow Envy – A Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts (Hub City Press 2018; 2021). 

His award winning book, The Home Place-Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (print by Milkweed Editions 2016/ audiobook by Tantor Media 2019; Burroughs Medal Finalist 2016; 2018 SELC Reed Environmental Writing Award; 2020 Scholarly Book of the Decade; 2020 Memoir of the Decade) exemplifies his passion to define environmental sustainability and conservation in new ways by bridging the gaps between advocacy, education, inspiration, and conservation. 

His Orion Magazine essay, “Forever Gone” a lyrical treatise on extinction, was chosen as a Best American Essay for 2018 by Rebecca Solnit. He has also been summer faculty at the Bread Loaf Environmental Writing Workshop (2019, 2020) and the Writing in the Ruins Workshop (2012). Lanham is currently a Contributing Editor for Orion Magazine and was the 2019 winner of the National Audubon Society’s Dan W. Lufkin Conservation Award and the 2016 North American Association of Environmental Educator’s Rosa Parks and Grace Lee Parks Service Award. As a Black American, he’s intrigued with how ethnic and racial prisms bend perceptions of nature and its care. His forthcoming book, Range Maps — Birds, Blackness and Loving Nature Between the Two, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG) of New York.

“Drew has done so much in his personal and professional work to ensure that future generations have the opportunities to enjoy and love nature, regardless of the color of their skin or their background,” said Braus. “He pushes all of us to learn and care and do more. I really cannot say enough good things about Drew. He is so special to me and to so many others. No one deserves this award more than him.”


Watch Judy Braus present the award to Dr. Lanham and his acceptance speech.

The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 10 Scholars working on park-related research.

Visit the CUIP website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and its recipients.