John Muir honored at 60th California History Institute

ImageEvery four years Pacific’s John Muir Center hosts a symposium focusing on the life and legacy of John Muir (1838-1914), whose papers are in the University Library. This year around 150 participated in the three-day event, which began with a field trip to John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, followed by a second field trip on March 21 to the John Muir Highway, which starts in Coulterville and ends at Smith Station. March 22 was devoted to an all-day series of formal presentations by Muir scholars, as well as presentations by seven students in History 52, “John Muir’s World.”

The trip to Martinez included twenty students from the Muir Class as well as several emeriti and guests here to present at the symposium. The highlight was a tour of the Muir cemetery with Muir descendants David Hanna (great-grandson) and Robert Hanna (great-great grandson).


Coulterville is home to the John Muir Geotourism Center. Around thirty guests joined JMGC founder Ken Pulvino and current Director of the Center, Monty Thornburg, for a tour of the highway from Modesto to near the entrance to Yosemite National Park. Lunch at the Hotel Jeffery, which Muir visited during his 1868 trek across the Central Valley into Yosemite, included remarks by Bill Jeffery on his family’s potential connection with the historic hotel. The JMGC is doing great work to promote Muir and his legacy.

President Pamela Eibeck welcomed visitors to Pacific on March 22, after hosting dinner for Muir-Hanna descendants at the President’s House the previous evening. The roster of speakers began Muir Center Director Bill Swagerty connecting Muir with Pacific. Three residents of the UK followed: Terry Gifford of Bath-Spa University presented on “Muir, Ruskin, Uncle Sam, Planet Earth: Gaines and Losses;” Graham White, Scottish conservationist and educator followed with “John Muir: The Moral Imperative of Environmental Education.” Popular-writer and best-selling non-fiction writer Andrea Wulf of London capped the morning with a luncheon keynote on “Cosmos, Nature and the Web of Life: Alexander von Humboldt’s influence on John Muir.” The History Department’s Kenneth Albala introduced the luncheon theme, Guests at the John Muir Symposium.“A Taste of Scotland.”MuirDay

Afternoon sessions focused on Muir’s legacy in Wilderness Areas, National Forests, and National Parks with presentations by Seattle-area residents Ronald Eber and Doug Scott. Stephen Holmes, author of The Young John Muir connected Muir’s first book, The Mountains of California (1894) with his original plans for the book and with its important themes for our time, including Climate Change. Seven students in “John Muir’s World” gave brief presentations on their research. Kyle Shin and John Wooten described their strategies for better understanding Muir’s camping trip with Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite and the Hetchy Hetchy battle (respectively). A library reception followed.

Twelve descendants of John Muir attended the symposium. They included Muir’s only surviving grandson, Ross Hanna (Class of ’49) and his wife, Gladys Stoeven-Hanna (Class of ’47) of Dixon; as well as great-grandsons William T. Hanna (Class of ’67) and his wife Claudia Jo Cummins-Hanna (Class of ’67) of Napa; Ross E. de Lipkau (McGeorge Class of ’72), his wife Sally de Lipkau, and grandson Tyler Young of Reno; Jim and Carol Hanna of Carson City; David and Sharon Hanna of Martinez; and great-granddaughter Susan Flynn and her husband Terry of Lakeside. A highlight of the day was showing of a video production by Tyler Young, Kyle Worrall, and Nick Reinhart, all eighth graders, on “John Muir and the Yosemite,” which is in competition as a National History Day project.

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