Tributes and Memories

This video tribute to Fitz features memories and accolades from longtime friends, colleagues, supporters, and peers.

More Tributes

Fitz, I wish you and Molly the very best, and Hank joins me in that.  I have no doubt that your next chapter, whatever it may be, will continue in service to conservation—first, because I know it’s important to you and second, because we need your voice.  Thank you for all that you’ve done, not only for the Lab but for the entire world of nature and nature lovers.—Wendy Paulson


I would just love to share to Fitz how privileged I feel to have met and to have been in the presence of such a human being. That illuminates for me the potential of human beings, of what it means to be human.—Claudia Madrazo


Fitz, congratulations on a life well-lived at the Lab and to your extraordinary companion, Molly. I can’t imagine a better person to go through life with. And thank you from me and from everybody who loves and appreciates what you’ve done.—Deedie Rose


Fitz you’ve educated our minds, you’ve sparked our imaginations, and you’ve invigorated our hearts. You are one of a kind, a most spectacular and rarest of birds. I know that I am one amongst many that are just so grateful for all that you’ve given to our world.—Maria Schneider


John’s enthusiasm and knowledge has far exceeded the best alarm clock in rousting us from bed at atrociously early hours to share the sights and sounds of wonderful birds. Great memories in Antartica, the Lesser Antilles, and the Amazon.—Sherry and Doug Caves


Soon after the new Lab was occupied and most of the 250 employees had been hired, at a board meeting, Fitz expressed his frustration — too many staff were reporting to him. Enter the CEOs on the board, a roll of butcher’s paper, and a black magic marker. Using their corporate experiences, on the paper the CEOs drew a pyramid-shaped structure with Fitz at the top and various directors below him, with the result that only four or five staff reported to him. A similar structure is still in place today.—Carol Sisler 


I regret that I only traveled with Fitz and Molly once – Florida Gulf Coast and Interior Heartland & Archbold, March 2019. I will never forget Fitz’s vigorous and perfect calling in of Barred Owls from on top our flat top trucks. And, of course, both Fitz and Molly were delightful hosts. I do hope they will continue to host some trips.—Heather Hodges


I knew of Fitz when he was a The Nature Conservancy Board Member. We are glad he and Molly came to the Lab. With the help of Fitz and Ned Morgens, Becky and I began to understand the possibilities for the Lab and help fund the early software. Fitz’s vision plus his understanding of the need for a systems thinking drove the unbelievable success of the Lab. He and Molly’s tireless outreach effort encouraged the necessary funding to support the global work. Congratulations and thanks for all you have done.—Jim Morgan


In winter of 1994 (or was it 1995?), as Director of Cornell’s Division of Biological Sciences I was off to give a talk to Cornell alumni in Florida. But I was given a secret mission by the Lab of O’s chairman, Ned Morgens: my wife Jennifer and I were to go to the Archbold Biological Station, to visit with our esteemed colleague Tom Eisner, but actually to meet John and Molly and sell Cornell and Ithaca to this hot shot guy who ran the place. I vividly remember the brief, but animated conservation Fitz and I had as we pumped gas into his field vehicle after he, and tale sharing Tom, took us on a tour of the scrub. And of the warm and exciting conversation we had as Jennifer regaled Molly with the delights of our wonderful academic town. One goal a number of us had was to strengthen the academic ties between the Lab and Cornell, and I think that thought resonated with him. He certainly made it happen in the years that followed. In any case whatever we all did way back then worked, and the Lab, Cornell, birders and birds around the world have gained immeasurably from our acquisition of this rare scientist/educator/administrator. Our hats are off to you Fitz and Molly. Thanks for being who you are and what you have done.—Peter and Jennifer Bruns


John, now that you’re retired, maybe you can come up sometime to Chicago. It’s been fun to see you at meetings, but it would be great for you to be able to spend more time at the Field Museum where you have a lot of friends from the past.—David Willard


Fitz, it’s been a delight to work with you. I’m really excited now that you will finally have time to focus on Florida Scrub-Jay research more instead of all the other things that you used to do. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful academic mentor to me.—Nancy Chen


Fitz, I just want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done for my career, for all that you’ve done for the Lab of Ornithology, and all that you’ve done for bird conservation.—Nathan Senner


Thank you so much for being such a wonderful academic mentor to me. Thanks for going with me to India and giving me the opportunity to show you India and I hope now that you’re not director anymore you have a little more time on your schedule to take a few weeks off and bird with me again.—Sahas Barve


Fitz, your leadership has meant so much to me and to all of us at the Lab of Ornithology. We know how much you care about each of us and we treasure your warmth, your humor, your full presence in every conversation, your support, your intuition, your boldness in interacting with and changing the world around us.—Miyoko Chu

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