Forest W. Stearns
Inducted September 21, 2001
Forest Stearns was an internationally known forest ecologist whose career in forestry spanned over 50 years.
His career began as a Professor of Biology at Purdue University, where he taught from 1947 to 1957. He joined the USFS in 1957 and served at the Northern Forest Experiment Station at Rhinelander, WI from 1961-1967 where he studied the hardwood forest of Northern Wisconsin.
Dr. Stearns joined the faculty at UW Milwaukee in 1968 and remained there until his retirement in 1987. While there he authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers, many on the composition and changed of Wisconsin’s Northern Hardwood Forests.
As Professor Emeritus, Dr. Stearns was highly respected by his students who, upon his retirement, endowed an award in his name at the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.
Following his retirement, Dr. Stearns continued research at the USFS Research Station at Rhinelander as a volunteer working on wetlands ecology and forest diversity. He was a long time member and past Director of the Forest History Association of Wisconsin.
More about Forest W. Stearns:
Forest Stearns attended Harvard, receiving his AB degree in 1939, and then earned a Masters at UW-Madison in 1940. After serving in the US Air Force, 1942-1946, he returned to UW-Madison and earned his Ph.D. in 1947.
From 1947-1957 he taught biology at Purdue. In 1957 he joined the USFS, first at the Southern Forest Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS. Later, 1961-1967, he served at the Northern Forest Experiment Station in Rhinelander, WI. In 1968, Forest accepted an offer to join the faculty at UW-Milwaukee where he remained until his retirement in 1987.
Forest Stearns was a hands-on educator during his 19 years at UW-Milwaukee. He believed the best way to learn about the natural environment was to be out in it.
As early as 1949, he wrote an article on Ninety Years Change in a Northern Hardwood Forest in Wisconsin. In 1951 he wrote another article, The Composition of the Sugar Maple-Hemlock-Yellow Birch Association in Northern Wisconsin. Both articles were published in the Ecology Journal.
After his retirement as professor emeritus at UW-Milwaukee Forest Stearns continued in research at USFS Northwestern Research Station at Rhinelander as a volunteer, working on wetland problems, ecology, and forest diversity. He was a longtime member and past director of the Forest History Association of Wisconsin.
Aside from his research and numerous articles in scientific journals, perhaps his greatest contribution was to inspire his students to be aware of and be concerned about their environment. Many went on to become university professors, teachers, and natural resource personnel. His students thought so highly of Forest that upon his retirement from UW-Milwaukee they endowed an award in his name at the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.