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Dick Field (MFR ’71, PHD ’78): ‘You’ve got to be able to communicate’

Dick Field pulls a dark green book from its shelf and cracks it open.

An art deco bookplate is pasted on the inside front cover, where, in black ink, is written the name of its former owner: B.F. Grant.

It’s one of several 1920s-era books in Field’s library—a collection that’s being slowly dismantled as he and his wife, Susan, begin to downsize. But each one holds a particular meaning, and Field still recalls pulling this book out of a box set outside the venerable Warnell professor’s office door.

Dick Field holds a book once owned by B.F. GrantOther books recall different memories—one, for example, has pictures of a fire tower where he worked for a summer. Others are vintage textbooks or reference guides used throughout his career at the U.S. Forest Service, the Georgia Center for Continuing Education or Athens-Clarke County.

Now in retirement, Field sees how skills learned in forestry tied it all together, whether he was crunching numbers or developing building plans. After getting his undergraduate degree and serving in the Army, a former professor recommended he consider the University of Georgia. He and Susan made the decision to move even prior to Field applying to Warnell. But before they had even settled in, opportunity called.

“We didn’t even have a telephone yet, and somebody came knocking on the door,” says Field. “It was somebody who worked at the (UGA) library, and they said they wanted Susan to come the next day and start work.”

Originally Field’s plans were to get his master’s and work in forestry consulting, but then he decided to pursue a Ph.D. and work in the quantitative area. He ended up with the U.S. Forest Service at a pivotal moment in its history. It was the mid 1970s and the United States was changing how it managed forests through the National Forest Management Act. Planning moved from unit-level to forest-level, and Field worked with forests in Georgia and North Carolina to develop the new management plans.

“It was getting more quantitative analysis in it,” he adds. “Foresters have got a very broad background in training. It’s math, science, English—you’ve got to be able to communicate.”

After about 14 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Field transitioned to the Georgia Center, where he ran the continuing education program for forestry and then managed the conference department. From there, he went on to blend his forestry, quantitative and management skills as the first environmental coordinator for Clarke County. Field was instrumental in getting the county’s green building initiative started.

At a recent event opening a new section of the Greenway—something he’s long championed—Field pulled aside one of the SPLOST staff and asked, “Are you still doing the green building?” “He said, ‘We’re still using the policy you wrote,’” Field said with a chuckle. “Things come and go. You see some things move in the right direction, like the green building. Others? They go in cycles.”

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