Charles O. Minor, the founding dean of the NAU School of Forestry in 1958, and his wife, Mary, left important legacies in the Southwest, including their involvement in the first professional forestry program, a high proportion of the public and tribal foresters in the region and the multiple generations of their family members who work with the U.S. Forest Service and NAU to sustain woodlands for future generations. Since 2019, their legacy is also reflected in contributions from numerous donors supporting the Charles O. and Mary Minor Professorship, the first endowed professorship in the School of Forestry.
Funds from the professorship support several undergraduate and graduate students with focus on Native American students and tribal research needs, undergraduate mentorship and international research and education. Regents’ Professor Peter Fulé, the inaugural faculty member to hold the Minor professorship, developed a forest restoration experiment in partnership with Diné College on the Navajo Nation that provided partial support to NAU undergraduate students Katelyn Benally, Molly Peige Barrett and Emma Sautter. Funding from the professorship supported NAU graduate Mari Cleven and her film, “Researching Fire with the Navajo Nation,” about graduate student Lionel Whitehair’s research in the Chuska Mountains.
International forestry is another key goal of the Minor professorship, which supported Fulé’s travels to Morocco in 2019 to develop contacts and data for a successful Fulbright Scholar application, leading to his current project in a National Park on the northern coast of Africa.
(Left) Students from NAU and Diné College learn to measure trees on the Navajo Nation. (Right) Minor Professor Peter Fulé and field assistant Elmehdi Jadar in the Rif Mountains of Morocco.
Graduate students Iliana Castro, who is studying satellite data on forest fires in Morocco; Lulu Peach, who is researching tree rings and U.S.-Mexican pine hybrids; and Sam Ebright, who is studying fire ecology in Vietnam, as well as researcher Alicia Azpeleta, who is researching fire effects in Mexico, also received partial support from Minor funds.
“The donated funds from the Minor professorship allow us to invest in projects of high social and environmental value throughout the world, even when conventional funding sources are restricted,” Fulé said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been harsh for the Navajo Nation and difficult for international research, but these students and our research partners have shown their commitment in safely and steadily advancing science in underserved settings.”