Don Dickmann: Awarded for Outstanding Contributions to Forestry

Professor Emeritus Don Dickmann was recently recognized with the MSU Faculty Emeriti Association Award for Outstanding Contributions by an Individual.

From left: Provost June Pierce Youatt, Professor Emeritus Don Dickmann and President Lou Anna K. Simon

“We survived,” said Professor Emeritus Don Dickmann about helping MSU Department of Forestry through a restructuring process in 2010 and 2011. “I take no credit for turning that situation around. We worked as a team around here. I was just the team leader. We had a very strong core faculty,” he said. Dickmann’s humble emphasis on faculty and staff collaboration illustrates why Forestry is growing and why he has helped shaped its success – Forestry is stronger as a department.

Dickmann was recently recognized with the MSU Faculty Emeriti Association Award for Outstanding Contributions by an Individual. He has spent more than four decades serving MSU through his contributions to forestry research and education. He retired not just once, but twice from MSU Forestry (in 2004 and 2011 respectively). He has a legacy of achievements at the Department.

Some of his retirement accomplishments include co-teaching and curriculum development for the Department’s most popular class (FOR 101: Michigan’s Forests), teaching silviculture and forest ecology, advising doctoral students, co-authoring Forestry Field Studies: A Manual for Science Teachers and The Forests of Michigan, outreach presentations, editor of the MSU Forester (the annual Forestry Newsletter), collaboratively organizing the A. K. Chittenden Forestry Cabin Memorial celebration, being State Chair (2005) and Science and Technology Board member (2008-10) of the Society of American Foresters, achieving the appointment of 2007 Society of American Foresters Fellow (the highest recognition of the national professional society) and other activities.   

Dickmann started at MSU in December of 1973 as associate professor of Silviculture. He has had a long career in engaging students, scholarship and being a part of the evolution of Forestry. “I’ve seen some changes. I’ve seen water go under the dam, or over the dam, so to speak,” he said. He has been a part of department fluctuations – from changes in leadership to teaching forestry students in an online classroom.

He also helped navigate the Department along its current path of revitalization. From May 2010-June 2011, he became acting chairperson following the abrupt departure of his predecessor. “There were a lot of things that worked in our favor. Many administrators and faculty believed that Forestry should continue to be part of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources,” he said. Other important contributors to success were Forestry’s legacy, a strong alumni organization, individual alumni supporters, committed faculty and “a little bit of luck involved in there,” he said.

Helping Forestry through a time of transition wasn’t the only challenge he faced in retirement. During his time as acting chair, Dickmann was battling cancer. “Beginning in June 2010 … I started seven weeks of radiation therapy, which is the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” he said. “I look back on that and being engaged and actively working was good for me because otherwise I would have been sitting around thinking how terrible my situation was.” He survived his battle with cancer and also helped MSU Forestry survive a time of uncertainty.

He is optimistic for MSU Forestry because our graduates are dedicated students who can face the challenges of climate change, adaptability and exotic invasive species. “Foresters are going to have to be able to react in a positive way to those changes and deal with them. Change is not always something that people are anxious for, but it does happen. It happens all the time,” he said. Dickmann is hopeful for the future because of the leadership of Dr. Richard Kobe, department dhair. The department is increasing enrollment by adapting to evolving needs of the forestry community and preparing students for employment.  

“There’s no end of challenges facing foresters as we go into the future, but people love forests, they love to be in forests, they love to recreate in them, they love to watch them, they love the change of the seasons, and they need wood products, so we’re always going to have a job to do,” he said. Thanks to dedicated educators and researchers like Donald Dickmann, MSU Forestry will survive.

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