We Can Make It Work

Peter Gordon, Elachee Head of Education to Retire after Nearly 30 Years
Read December 23, 2020 Gainesville Times Article

November 30, 2020 (Gainesville, Ga.) Some 29 years ago, Peter Gordon began an epic journey with Elachee Nature Science Center. From volunteer to his invaluable role as the organization’s long-time Education Director, Peter’s can-do approach has contributed to Elachee reaching and teaching hundreds of thousands of Georgians about the natural world. As the year 2020 concludes, so does ‘Mr.’ Peter’s tenure with Elachee. Peter Gordon to retire as the Elachee Nature Science Center Education Director in December 2020.

In announcing his imminent retirement at the end of December, Elachee President/CEO Andrea Timpone shares, “It has been Peter’s vision that has made Elachee a community-serving nature center. This organization owes a great debt to you.” And what a legacy of learning he has helped establish the past three decades!

Above all, Peter has lived the philosophy, “We can make it work!” He is like the Energizer Bunny, all over the campus and pitching in to help where needed, when needed. A welcoming and friendly presence, he delights in conversing with visitors to the Nature Center or conducting impromptu lessons on what is on the path in front of them.

“A consummate teacher and storyteller, Peter’s passion about nature – in particular, the plants and birds in the Chicopee Woods – just draws you in,” confides Peter’s co-worker, Kim Marks. “He is my go-to source for generating information that people can use to learn more about their immediate surroundings or how to co-exist with the creatures in their own yards.”

Daily, yes daily, Elachee receives calls about injured birds or other woodland creatures or unusual plant sightings. Although Elachee is not a licensed rehabilitator, having an interested and knowledgeable person responding to one of these inquiries is invaluable. Peter routinely takes these calls to help guide or in most cases educate callers on how to handle the situation.

Elachee Trustee Emeritus John Girardeau commended Peter at a recent Board meeting saying, “You have given so much to our community and our world is a better place because of your work.” His peers came to this same conclusion by honoring Peter with the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia’s Eugene Odum Lifetime Achievement Award in March 2018.

Yet when asked to recap highlights from his storied career, Peter embraces teamwork as the storyline to all Elachee and he have been able to accomplish in promoting environmental understanding through education and conservation. Following are Peter’s thoughts on retiring and his wishes for Elachee’s future.

“Successful nature centers, like Elachee, attract enthusiastic, energetic and creative folks who commit their talents and passions to the fulfillment of our mission and to the betterment of the organization,” Peter states. “Over the years, Elachee has been fortunate to have had a cavalcade of amazing employees and volunteers who have dedicated themselves to moving the organization forward in a variety of ways.”

As Education Director, Peter has been instrumental in finding scores of individuals who demonstrated these wonderful qualities. “Good teachers are also insatiable learners,” he comments. “Elachee has always encouraged staff to learn from the natural world around us, from each other and from the amazing array of scientists, educators and experts that call Georgia home.” As a result, he says, “Our students and our community benefit from this process.”

“The support from our community has been integral to Elachee’s success over the years,” he continues. “When I joined the staff in 1992, it included one executive director, two teachers, a part-time bookkeeper, a facilities manager and a part-time caretaker. Today, we have 11 full-time staff, approximately 20 part-time employees and hundreds of dedicated volunteers who devote their time and energy to the complex education and conservation work of the organization.” Best of all, according to Peter, “Our community recognizes, endorses, supports and applauds the work Elachee does and will do in the years to come. Elachee is a wonderful, dynamic and adaptive organization that is going to be fine.”

He shares, “One of the most rewarding aspects of working at Elachee is becoming acutely aware of how the cycles in nature play out in your own life. You watch favorite trees grow taller and more majestic over time and how the days grow incrementally and reassuringly longer after the winter solstice. Trillium still bloom in March along the hills and floodplains of the Chicopee Woods despite the month’s unpredictable weather. To me, working at a Nature Center, especially one that is so much a part of such a remarkably beautiful and living greenspace really accentuates the notion that humans are not detached from these cycles, the turnings of life that one witnesses on a daily basis.  It is very reassuring realization.”

On his retirement, Peter offers these thoughts, “The pleasure of working  each day in a beautiful and important place with a remarkable group of like-minded colleagues devoted to an irresistibly important mission has been the most rewarding professional accomplishment of my life. Thanks, Elachee!”

Send Peter Gordon a Message

There is truly no way to calculate the impact Peter Gordon has had on the children, youth and nature lovers in our community. The Elachee organization invites you to SEND PETER GORDON A MESSAGE to share what he has meant to you!