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Generous Gift Funds Conservation and Policy Professorship

University of Montana alumnus Earle Layser has committed $1.5 million of his estate to the College of Forestry and Conservation. The gift from Earle Layser and his late wife, Pattie, of Alta, Wyo., will endow a professorship in conservation biology and policy.Earle and Pattie Layser

The position will be called the Earle and Pattie Layser Endowed Distinguished Professorship in Conservation Biology and Policy. It will increase the number of existing or planned endowed faculty positions in the college to four. Others include the Joel and Patti Meier Wildland Recreation Management Chair, the John J. Craighead Chair of Wildlife Conservation, and the Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation.

“Through this generous gift, the University of Montana will do even more to preserve the natural resources of the land the Laysers love,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “We are grateful for their dedication to conservation education and research.”

“These endowed positions complement each other and strengthen our programs in wildlands, wildlife biology, conservation biology and natural resource policy,” Engstrom said. “Together, these positions, and the professors in them now and in the future, make UM a powerhouse in those fields.”

Jim Burchfield, dean of the College of Forestry and Conservation, said the gift from Earle and Pattie Layser will allow the college to deepen its focus on wildland conservation and policy.

“We already have a strong foundation of scholarship and research in natural resource policy and land conservation,” Burchfield said. “This generous gift will help future students better understand the connections between people, wildlife and landscapes in the West.”

Earle Layser, who spent his childhood in rural Pennsylvania, graduated from the School of Forestry in 1965. His late wife, Pattie, grew up in Memphis, Tenn. Together, the couple traveled the world, but their home always was the Northern Rockies. They particularly loved the Greater Yellowstone area – a place Pattie would come to call her “life’s landscape.”

“I took Earle’s hand and we stepped into the outside,” Pattie Layser wrote. “I will always be thankful for that, over time and space, a Southern girl’s backyard morphed into Yellowstone Park and other western wildlands.”

The couple worked together as writers, naturalists and journalists, publishing hundreds of stories on conservation, natural history, history and heritage, outdoor recreation and travel.

“We were exceptionally fortunate to visit and write about some of Earth’s beautiful, wild and biologically unique places,” Earle Layser said. “But in the process, we witnessed firsthand humankind’s sobering worldwide assault on natural places and wildlife. Perhaps, within that same landscape, we can also be leaders in demonstrating to the world how, in the future, to live in ecological and sustainable harmony with our wildlands and wildlife. It is toward that goal that Pattie and I are making this gift.”

Earle Layser and family Donna Hulsey(Pattie Layser's sister), Earle Layser, Gaia Layser, Gavan Borgias Layser at the gift announcement ceremony at the University of Montana, March 4, 2014.