After a chance meeting at Chautauqua Institution during the summer of 1955, Robert and Patricia (Adams) Sundell dated long distance while finishing college and married two years later.
They spent their first few years of marriage in Michigan, where Robert earned his master’s degree in wildlife management from Michigan State University.
When a teaching position opened up in the Biology Department at Jamestown Community College, the couple knew it was the right move to settle down with their family.
Over the next several decades, Robert and Patricia became heavily involved with several environmentally focused organizations in the community. They were both charter members of the Audubon Community Nature Center and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, while Robert was instrumental in the creation of the Ornithological Club at Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.
In 2000, the couple created The Robert and Patricia Sundell Environmental Fund to support the continuation of environmental education in the community.
Funding from the Sundells’ fund annually supports RTPI’s Project Wild America Youth Ambassadors program which allows high school and college students to explore careers in the environmental field. Students participate in hands on experiences with area conservation projects and perform community outreach.
“Carrying on Bob’s passion for birds and nature is an ongoing passion for RTPI staff, today,” said Linda Pierce, RTPI director of development. “Bob and Pat’s generosity continues to inspire and provide learning opportunities, now and for future generations.”
In addition to RTPI, their environmental fund supports ongoing efforts at the Audubon Community Nature Center and the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.
Although Bob passed away in 2017, his love for the environment will be remembered forever through his work and this fund.
“Our passion for the environment and our interest in informing youth about the importance about taking care of the environment led us to creating this fund,” Patricia said. “It was an investment in the future that we see every year. One day when we’re both gone, it will still be around.”