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A Natural Wonder

Janet Boe’s connection to Itasca translates into an endowment in her memory to support student field biology research.

Thomson Soule wanted to keep his wife Janet Boe’s (M.S. Botany, ’81) passion for the natural world alive after she died of cancer at 55. He decided to create a scholarship to support students engaged in field biology research at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories.

What inspired you to endow the Janet Boe Memorial Scholarship?

Janet often inspired me and still does in many ways. … I had to do something to help myself with grief, find ways to deal with her death, to somehow make it right. I realized how important it is for me to honor Janet for who she was and move forward with what was important to her … to keep her “alive” and present in my life.

After Janet died, I asked friends and family to help me come up with ways to honor her passion for supporting students, and environmental education and conservation efforts. Setting up the endowment is a good start, but I want to do more.

Without question Janet held herself to the highest standards academically, professionally and socially. She was committed to raising awareness and appreciation of the natural world and its relevance and importance to our everyday lives. Education and continued learning were very important to her, not just for herself but to help others. She was at her best teaching others, organizing and participating in workshops, training sessions and seminars, writing, and helping community conservation efforts like Sucker Creek Preserve in Detroit Lakes. She was good at it because the connections she made were tied to her intellect, spirit, kindness, grace and the will in her heart.

Can you describe Janet’s connection to Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories?

The Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, and the surrounding Itasca State Park, were more than special to Janet and me. You could say our life together began there. We both took classes at the station, but there is much more to the story. Our decision to be married in that special place was not happenstance.

As a teenager, with her family and often by herself, Janet made many visits to the Itasca State Park, cross country skiing, hiking, bird watching, dining at Douglas Lodge, visiting the headwaters and, of course, exploring the natural history of the area. Her visits home from nursing school and college included visits to the Itasca to get reacquainted with the plants, flowers and birds, and to renew her spirit. I can see her, lost in concentration, keying out a sedge or an orchid, or gliding through tall red pines on her skis.

I have no doubt that her adventures in the park—its natural wonders, solitude and beauty—awakened and nurtured her curiosity and love of the natural world, and led to her decision to become not just a botanist and a zoologist/ecologist but a consummate naturalist. I am equally sure that from the time she first visited Itasca she made plans to return one day to study at the biological station; a plan she would complete while in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, returning twice as its nurse and once as a student.

We returned to Itasca many times in all seasons for work assignments, wedding anniversaries, visits to the headwaters, snowshoe treks, spring wildflower searches, lake cruises, station events and Douglas Lodge specialties, or just to walk and soak up the smells, sounds and silence, reconnecting with this special place and each other.