Donor Profiles

We appreciate the generosity of the Center's many volunteers and donors. Below are just a few of the stories of their experiences with the EIC and why they feel it is important to support our activities.



Doris Applebaum

Doris Applebaum has always been a supporter of “anything environmental.” So several years ago when she heard Julie Craves speak about the compelling mission and work of the Rouge River Bird Observatory, Doris felt a calling to do something. At the time, she was serving on the Board of the Oakland Audubon Society. Of course, that chapter of the Audubon Society would help, but Doris felt a personal responsibility to help this unusual and rare urban bird observatory. She has a passion for birds and bird migration and sees the Observatory playing an instrumental role in educating people about the importance of maintaining green spaces for migrating birds. Doris remembers her curiosity about the birds in her backyard when she was a child, but it wasn’t until her adult years that she realized there were ways to learn about birds and many other people interested in the same thing. Doris is happy to support the Rouge River Bird Observatory and wants to see its work supported by the University and others for a long, long time.


Jeff and Cynthia Boettner

For Jeff (’80 CASL) and Cynthia (’80 CASL) Boettner, love for the Environmental Interpretive Center (EIC) is a family affair. Upon entering the EIC, you are greeted by a beautiful display of hand-carved wooden birds, which were a gift from George Boettner Sr., Jeff’s father. Jeff and Cynthia met via the Dearborn Naturalists Association in the mid-70s. They were active in leading walks through the woods for kids, teaching the maple sugaring process and they helped oversee the Community Organic Garden where Jeff’s mom had a plot. They also helped with an early recycling center on campus. Jeff always had a deep appreciation for having both the Henry Ford Estate and Natural Areas so close to classes. Jeff’s mom had a dream of seeing an owl, and one day there was a whet owl sitting in a tree in the Natural Areas. He raced home and brought her out to see it. Jeff has a vivid memory of seeing his mom light up in a way he had never seen before. To this day, Jeff and Cynthia are still influenced by their experiences more than 30 years ago. Jeff learned to band birds with Dr. Orin Gelderloos and Mike Hayes, which had a huge impact on him and influenced his decision to become a wildlife biologist. Dr. Gelderloos’ field biology class introduced Cynthia to botany. While a student, Cynthia was impressed to learn that the "natural" landscape near Henry and Clara Ford's mansion on campus was actually transformed from an agricultural field and designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen. This helped inspire her to complete a master’s degree in environmental landscape planning and design. She currently works to protect native plants by working on the problem of invasive plant species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jeff says that the whole family has felt a part of the UM-Dearborn campus in many ways and feel the work being done in the Environmental Interpretive Center is so important. It shows how much biodiversity can still hang on in an urban environment if you just share a little space with nature.


Rhonda Thede

When you meet Rhonda Thede (’00 CASL), you can feel her passion for birds and flowers—everything to do with the outdoors. Every spring, she leaves her winter home in Florida earlier than most and returns to Michigan to work with a wildflower rescue group that she has been involved with for almost 20 years. Often, one finds her visiting construction sites to rescue the native beauties, typically replanting them in the UM-Dearborn Environmental Study Area. As a matter of fact, one can attribute many of the plants seen on campus to Rhonda who has been helping preserve the Environmental Study Area for more than 10 years. When asked why she keeps coming back to UM-Dearborn and the Environmental Interpretive Center (especially after many of the flowers she has planted were eaten by deer or dug up by admiring visitors) she replies simply, “It’s matching passion with passion. The people here live the life that I live.” Rhonda believes in sustainability and hopes people realize that threatened plans have so much value – not only for their beauty but also their healing powers. Well-versed in the history of the Henry Ford Estate and the grounds, Rhonda appreciates that the University is doing its part to showcase the Natural Areas that were part of the original Ford Motor Company gift that established UM-Dearborn. The 300-acre Environmental Study Area is a great resource available to students, school groups and the public. She tries to do her part to make sure we remember history and how important it is to preserve nature.



Quick Links

Rouge River
Bird Observatory

The Rouge River Bird Observatory is the longest- running, full-time urban bird research station in North America.
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Contact Us:

Interpretive Center
University of Michigan – Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
(313) 593–5338