Freedom to Explore
Jeremy Wilson grew up hearing about the Harris Center during summers spent on Nubanusit Lake and at his great-grandparents’ summer home in Peterborough.
“I became interested in the environment after spending summers up here and having the freedom to explore forests, streams, and lakes.”
A native of Princeton, NJ, Jeremy went on to major in economics at Bowdoin College because it seemed like a good way to understand how the world works. During his college years, Jeremy worked for the New Jersey Barn Company, taking down and restoring old barns to make way for development.
“Working on a barn’s roof, we would inevitably have a view of an onslaught of particleboard-sheathed homes marching over the hillsides to replace the farms we were working on. The structures we took down were 200 or more years old and were going to be re-used elsewhere. The new homes that took their place looked like they would last maybe 40 years. The whole picture just seemed wrong.”
A Harris Center Wedding
Soon thereafter, Jeremy and his bride-to-be, Katie, were looking for a wedding venue when a friend suggested the Harris Center. The couple wed there in 1993. Little did they know that they would return to the Harris Center 19 years later for Jeremy to accept the position of Executive Director!
“I was looking to do something new with my career. It was a chance to be closer to family and to try something very different. The Monadnock Region is a place that’s really pleasant to live. It’s all right here: hiking, biking, kayaking. We wanted to be someplace where those activities are right in your backyard.”
The Road to Hancock
Jeremy received his master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the early 1990s, and then moved to Seattle where he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources. Jeremy then became a professor at the University of Maine in Orono, where he worked for 11 years before moving his family to Dublin to take the position at the Harris Center in 2012. Besides being familiar with the area from his boyhood summers, Jeremy and Katie had lived in Hancock for a year when Jeremy worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the late 1990s.
“I had watched two places [NJ and NH] chart two very different courses with respect to development and the natural world. I was excited to join an organization that’s focused on thinking of a region’s future and keeping it a special place — which is not to say that it can’t change, but that the changes that do happen don’t ruin the great attributes.”
Growth Under His Leadership
Jeremy has been instrumental in growing the Harris Center’s land program, developing conservation research as a new focus area, and expanding the education program. His low-key management style, knowledge base, and steady guidance have earned him the respect of staff, volunteers, and the community at large.
“It’s fun working with such dedicated people and inspiring community members that support this organization. And it’s amazing how many magical places you find as you get to know this region — so much more than I was ever aware [of before].”
Looking to the Future
As Jeremy looks ahead to the Harris Center’s next 50 years within the context of what’s happening in the world, he remains guardedly hopeful.
“Education is where we can have an impact and really help the community to be responsive and resilient to challenging circumstances from an environmental viewpoint. We can be a great example, an incredible asset for the region — a source of inspiration and education — and help people through hard times. Our education program engages kids and teaches them to care about a world that is under massive threat. It’s the most critical thing we can do—to inspire young people to be aware of, nurture, and work for the environment.”
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.