Published 10:00 am Thursday, July 4, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

When I scheduled a meeting with Dale Greene, recently retired Dean of the University of Georgia Forestry School, I suggested breakfast which brought about an eager response—but we had to agree on a convenient location.  His primary residence is now Lake Hartwell.

Growing up in Magnolia, Arkansas, he is an alumnus of the early riser advocacy—even in retirement.  Those, like Dale, who wake up the rooster, are usually hearty breakfast aficionados, too.

Since he has settled down in his second home, there was the requirement that we meet somewhere between the lake and the UGA campus.

“That’s easy,” he said.  “How about the Ila Restaurant in Downtown Ila.”  Downtown Ila has no traffic lights and one intersection with a four-way stop.  The Ila Restaurant has a cook with seasoned experience, and when breakfast is set before you, it is hot.  If breakfast is not hot, it loses both its flavor and its rating.

Small towns, whistle stop variety, are a staple of his past, which is what Magnolia would likely have been if they hadn’t struck oil there in 1938.  As it is, it’s a downhome place of 10, 780 where you earn your bread by the sweat of your brow and abide by the tenets of faith, hope and charity.

The work ethic was underscored as much as the partaking of daily bread when he grew up.  In high school, he went to work at 4:00 a.m. at the local Piggly Wiggly Grocery, dashing home at 6:30 a.m. for a refreshing shower and a hearty breakfast before heading off to school.

When he wasn’t in school or working, you would find him forever outdoors either with a fishing pole or a shotgun.  He kept the family freezer filled with bass and bream along with vegetables from the garden.

A well-rounded student, he was sports editor of the school paper and was an avid reader.  Books took him to places he wanted to explore and stimulated his imagination on a variety of subjects.

When he went off to college, he spent time on more than one campus, spitting provincialism in the eye.  He received his undergraduate degree at LSU, a Masters at Virginia Tech, and his PhD from Auburn, saving the best for last—a long tenure with the nation’s oldest chartered state university.

“I was quite excited to land a position with UGA,” he smiles with gentle praise.  “Georgia is one of the top three forestry schools in the country. I could not have enjoyed my time anywhere more than I did in Athens.”

He enjoys trumpeting the highly regarded status of Georgia’s forest acreage and resources.  Forestry schools are about more than tree cover.  That is their core, naturally, but trees are irreversibly connected to wildlife, clean water, and, not coincidentally, economics.   He enjoys speaking to the merits of the industry where he distinguished himself as a teacher, administrator, researcher and multi-faceted bearer of good news about one of our most valuable resources.

The state of Georgia has more commercial forest land than any state in the country.  “Our watersheds give us clean water,” the former dean says, reminding us we should never take that for granted.  “We have sustainable forests and we are a haven for deer, turkey, the bald eagle and black bear.”   Are you listening?  There’s more.

When it comes to timber harvesting, pulp and paper production, Georgia ranks at the very top annually.  How many industries do you know that can boast about contributing to the economy and the health of the environment at the same time?

It is a pleasure to read the Warnell Log, the school’s official magazine which not only touts the comprehensive successes of students and faculty, but research projects such as the one which confirmed that the elk in Yellowstone National Park learned to graze when the wolves were sleeping.

Dale Greene has enjoyed an eminent career, but he is not the only star in his family.  His wife Jeanna Wilson, retired from the UGA poultry science department, is internationally recognized for her research with broiler breeders.  It you want to take a nice walk in the woods by a murmuring stream while photographing a ten-point buck, you can thank Dale for his leadership in helping develop sustainable forests.

When you order the best in fried chicken at your favorite restaurant, then salute Jeanna with a generous thumbs up.  Damn good team!