Lizzie Summerfield

Lizzie SummerfieldTerm: Summer 2014



Learning Lessons for Leadership: Gifford Pinchot

Testimonial: My research focus is on the early education of Gifford by his parents James and Mary Pinchot, and its comparison with the ‘father’ of Australian forestry George Goyder, and his parents David and Sarah. What the research confirms is that each man was taught to learn to see his environment by using a synthesis of their head, heart and hand, that is the entirety of their humanity to exercise the wise leadership they did.

As a scholar-in-residence at Grey Towers I have been given the same opportunity to combine my ‘head’ knowledge of Gifford’s childhood education—accessible from the archives and informed by the rigorous work of scholars like Char Miller – with the deep appreciation that comes from engaging my own heart and hand, or senses, at Grey Towers. What a privilege! And the wealth of knowledge contained in the minds of the supportive staff at Grey Towers enhanced the experience immeasurably on many fronts.

How will my research residency benefit Grey Towers? About 3 years ago I read Char Miller’s wonderful biography of Gifford Pinchot. I emailed him, not really expecting a response from such a busy man. To my huge delight I had a return email within an hour encouraging me to pursue the research he had framed in his book! I was hooked as much by his enthusiasm and generosity as by the topic. I was supported by the University of Melbourne School of Land and Environment to visit the Library of Congress last year, where I found an abundance of archival material on the influences of Gifford’s education, and an uncanny resemblance to that of my Australian subject, George Goyder.

So what I have been doing while at Grey Towers is taking that research and writing it up as a journal article as a piece of—what’s been called by a leading Australian environmental historian, Stephen Dovers—pragmatic environmental history. I hope it might support the contemporary educational and leadership programs run by Grey Towers, as well as contribute new insights into what James and Mary considered to be worthwhile educational principles for Gifford’s education. With sincere thanks…for the support from the Grey Towers Heritage Association and the USDA Forest Service which enabled me, in keeping with the learning principles espoused by the Pinchot Family, to synthesize theory and practice to arrive at a more profound understanding of their learning for leadership.


Summerfield, E. (2017). Environmental Wicked Problem-Solving:  A Case for History. Australian Policy and History, 13 November 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2020 from

Summerfield, E. (2015). Learning & leadership for complex environmental problems: George Goyder and the innovation of forestry in Australia (Doctoral dissertation). University of Melbourne, Australia.
Summerfield, L. & Wells, S. (2017). Essential learning for sustainability: Gifford Pinchot’s lessons for educating leaders today. The Journal of Sustainability Education, December 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2020 from