Dr. Elsie Quarterman, professor emerita, Vanderbilt University, passed away peacefully in her sleep this afternoon; she was 103 ½ years old (DOB 11-28-10). Her documentation of the flora of the old-growth forest in Savage Gulf led directly to the preservation of Savage Gulf State Natural Area. She was the first plant ecologist to systematically study limestone cedar glades and influential in the protection and conservation of thousands of acres of premier Tennessee land. There is much more to say about Elsie, who was a remarkable person who touched the lives of so many people.
Dr. Quarterman was my academic “grandmother” — her student Dr. Tom Hemmerly was my major professor in graduate school. A few years ago, I visited her to deliver a certificate from the Tennessee Native Plant Society designating her our “Conservationist of the Year.” When I arrived, I found her out on the patio watering her potted geraniums. I was struck by the image of this scientist who had such a deep understanding of plant ecology enjoying this simple potted plant. I, too, love geraniums, and I think of Elsie when I water mine. Thank you, Elsie, for this bond — and for much, much more.
Picture at top was taken in a cedar glade in middle Tennessee in 1947. Middle photo was taken in soon-to-be-designated Savage Gulf State Natural Area in 1971; last photo was taken in Elsie’s home, circa 2008.