Estella Leopold receives honorary degree from UW-Madison

Estella Leopold receives honorary degree
Professor Don Waller escorts Estella Leopold as she accepts her honorary degree from Chancellor Rebecca Blank. Empire Photography
Adapted from the story by Susannah Brooks

Every year, UW-Madison awards honorary degrees to recognize individuals with careers of extraordinary accomplishment. This year accomplished conservationist and alumna of the University of Wisconsin Estella Leopold was one of four individuals elected to receive an honorary PhD.

Estella has devoted the last seven decades to an academic career of extraordinary accomplishment alongside an active commitment to environmental conservation. A daughter of the legendary Aldo Leopold, she graduated from UW-Madison in 1948 and received her Ph.D. from Yale in 1955.

Trained in paleobotany, Leopold broadened her focus into the relationships among prehistoric life-forms. She helped lay the foundations for the new field of paleoecology, which reconstructs the structure and function of ancient ecosystems.

Leopold is an emeritus professor at the University of Washington, studying botany, forest resources and quaternary research. Throughout her career, she has also played a critical role in leading and expanding the Leopold Foundation.

In keeping with her family's rich tradition of service to the community, Leopold has worked to preserve the landscapes and habitats of the American West and Southwest, most notably blocking the construction of dams in the Grand Canyon and establishing the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

"While election to the National Academy [of Sciences] is often the crowning achievement of a scientist's career, she took this in stride," writes Don Waller, John T. Curtis Professor and Chair of the Department of Botany, "continuing to make important contributions in the 40 years since then, both in her specialty and in her broader efforts to conserve the ecosystems and landscapes she understands, and loves, so well."

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 Estella Leopold at the podium  Estella Leopold receives honorary degree
Estealla Leopold at the podium. Empire Photography Estella Leopold accepting her degree. Photo: Daijiang Li