John Ripley Forbes ’38 died on August 26, 2006, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Born on August 25, 1913, in Chelsea, MA, he prepared for college at Stamford High School in Connecticut and attended the University of Iowa in 1934-35 and Bowdoin in 1935-36. He went on a 1937 Arctic expedition with Admiral Donald MacMillan of the Class of 1898 on the Schooner Gertrude L.Thébaud.When he was 14 years old he met naturalist William T. Hornaday, who was his neighbor in Stamford and who encouraged his passion as a naturalist in a remarkable career, which led Bowdoin to award him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in May of 1987.The citation for the degree said, in part, “Friend of natural science and loyal son of Bowdoin…when you set sail fifty years ago for Baffin Island on the Schooner Gertrude L.Thébaud, under another great alumnus,Admiral Donald MacMillan of the Class of 1898, you were also setting forth on what was to be your own lifelong voyage of discovery amid the wonders of nature.We honor you today because you did not keep what you found for yourself.You shared your excitement and enthusiasm and love of learning. To say that you established twenty museums and science centers and twelve nature sanctuaries around the country and aided in the foundation of more than two hundred other science centers is only to touch the surface of your achievements.What cannot be counted, but only felt and marveled at, is the way you have enriched so many young lives and set so many people on the path to distinguished scientific careers.The lessons in ecology you have taught will ensure that your work endures for future generations on this planet that you love so well. You have been a great friend of the sciences and of education, and that other friend of science and patron of education, James Bowdoin III, would surely share our pleasure in saluting you today.” He founded the Natural Science for Youth Foundation and the Southeast Land Preservation Trust that he started in 1976. During World War II, he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force, doing rehabilitation work in a convalescent center in Nashville,TN. Surviving are his wife, Margaret Sanders Forbes, whom he married in 1951; a son, Ernest Ripley Forbes of Alexandria,VA; a daughter,Anne F. Spengler of Atlanta, GA; and two grandchildren.