Blandford Nature Center founder/director to be honored with President’s Award

Mary Jane Dockeray attends to a sassafras tree at the Blandford Nature Center 9/27/66 in this Press file photo.

By Katelyn Nettler, Blandford Nature Center

The Association of Nature Center Administrators will distinguish Former Blandford Nature Center Founder and Director Mary Jane Dockeray as the inaugural ANCA President’s Award recipient for foundational leadership in the Nature and Environmental Learning Center Profession.

During a near 70-year career, Dockeray has helped instill youth environmental education as part of the nature and environmental learning center profession. Since boldly asking for the donation of ten acres of private land in 1964 for “getting kids boots on the ground”, Dockeray has displayed what Jason Meyer, current President/CEO of the Blandford Nature Center calls “her characteristic willingness to push boundaries.”

Over 43 years, Dockeray grew those ten acres into a 143-acre refuge that has served over two million visitors, an astounding accomplishment. Among her innovative achievements is the foundation of the Blandford School, a sixth grade program where 60 public school students spend their entire school year using the nature center as their classroom.

Beyond Blandford, Dockeray helped build youth environmental education into the ethos of the profession by freely offering her knowledge. She hosted and supported an early professional association of nature center administrators: the Michigan Coalition of Nature Centers. Corky McReynolds, PhD, CPF, and former Coalition member writes, “Her inspiration to me helped launch my career, and I am just one of literally thousands of lives she has touched.”

Dockeray exemplifies the exceptional contribution to the nature and environmental learning center profession that the President’s Award was created to acknowledge. ANCA Board President, Francis Velazquez, writes, “It is how Mary Jane’s story touches on all the aspects of our profession that captured my attention. It was the humility, simple directness, foresight, and sustained effort that brought her consideration for the President’s Award. It was how she educated one child, through one program, one field trip, one nature center, one pioneering idea after another and how she influenced one community and one profession with such lasting effects that made it clear she should be awarded by ANCA.”

Jen Levy, ANCA Executive Director, writes, “Mary Jane represents an exceptional group of individuals who recognized the need to secure the places that are now a vital network of nature education sites. Our profession is indebted to Mary Jane and her fellow nature education pioneers, and I am thrilled the board is recognizing her.”

To no surprise, at age 90, Dockeray continues to live out her commitment to environmental education. You can find her captivating young learners and mentees weekly at the Blandford Nature Center. On behalf of the nature and environmental learning center profession, we recognize Mary Jane Dockeray for her unwavering commitment to youth, nature, and the profession with the ANCA President’s Award — rock on Mary Jane!

The President’s Award will be given to Mary Jane Dockeray at the Association of Nature Center Administrator’s Annual Summit in August in Nauvoo, Alabama.