Ceremonial Events - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
CUSHMAN TITUS PUTNAM
Doctor of Laws
As a student at Vassar College, Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam learned about the crisis occurring in the national park system: not enough rangers were employed to take care of the parks and not enough money was assigned to hire more rangers. In 1955, Putnam’s senior thesis, “A Proposal for a Student Conservation Corps,” conceived of a program that would provide opportunities for young people to learn about environmental conservation and put their knowledge to work by volunteering in national parks.
After two years of work with a broad coalition of supporters and allies, Putnam founded the Student Conservation Association (SCA), an organization based on those principles. Since then, the SCA has grown to become the largest conservation service program in America, placing volunteers in locations as diverse as Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park to the Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Vermont. Eventually, the organization would place volunteers in all 50 states and internationally in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, and several other countries as well.
A pioneering force in the world of conservation, SCA helped win Congressional approval of the Youth Conservation Corps in 1971 and served as the model for the National Park Service’s Volunteers in Parks program in 1972. By 1982, Putnam’s leadership in conservation and youth development won her national acclaim as recipient of the President’s Volunteer Action Award, presented by Ronald Reagan. SCA has been recognized for its achievements by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Wilderness Society, and the National Wildlife Federation, among others, and works with other land management agencies and service organizations including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and AmeriCorps.
In the 1980s, Putnam was a member of the UVM President’s Council and has served as board member for numerous state and local organizations, including the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, the Shaftsbury Historical Society, the Southern Vermont Conservation Society, the Vermont Nature Conservancy, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Today, her dedication to conservation continues as Ambassador-at-large for the SCA and member of Merck Forest and Farmland Center’s Advisory Council and the National Board of Associates for the Garden Club of America.
Putnam’s work has won her multiple awards and honors including the U.S. Department of the Interior Conservation Service Award, the National Park Service Honorary Park Ranger Award, the Sol Feinstone Environmental Award, the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow, the ChevronTexaco Conservation Award, and the Margaret Douglas Medal from the Garden Club of America among others.