I am so pleased that the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies is honoring Calvin DeWitt for his twenty-five years of extraordinary leadership, rich insights, and a spirit of servant-leadership. I thank Fred Van Dyke and the Board for this much-deserved and overdue day of recognition. I am only sorry that I will not be there to celebrate this achievement with Cal and Ruth DeWitt.
Throughout their lives, both Cal and Ruth have demonstrated Christian love, generosity and nurturing leadership to countless students who have passed through Au Sable, sat at your dinner table or learned from your inspiring and passionate role as professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At Au Sable, Cal carefully recruited top-flight instructors offering much-needed field-study courses in environmental science and ethics to students from Christian schools that lacked capacity for this. DeWitt’s reputation as a steadfast champion of Christian stewardship brought needed attention and prestige to Au Sable among the many affiliated colleges and universities, but most importantly, Cal has challenged Christians to embrace our role in caring for creation and to reject the flawed teachings of the past.
In his wonderful book, Earthwise Cal taught us about the primary provisions of creation and offered a pathway for hope in the human ability to learn from creation if we only listened to nature’s song.
Au Sable became well-known for its bold leader who willingly challenging flawed political views of far too many conservatives. Cal’s widely-reported presence on Capitol Hill as an Evangelical Christian with an endangered Florida Panther, no doubt, saved the Endangered Species Act from sure destruction. When Vice President Al Gore needed someone to share biblical understandings of creation care with Billy Graham, he turned to you and you taught biblical truths to Billy Graham.
Cal stood firm on the threat of climate change long before it was embraced by the public and he was the catalyst for the creation of the successful Evangelical Environmental Network that is marshalling thousands of Christians to fight for climate protection to this day. While advocating for nature, Cal has been repeatedly attacked and insulted by dark-money interests as they were threatened that he was making inroads into evangelical understandings, yet Cal persisted in teaching environmental science while emphasizing the primacy of scripture. Cal unabashedly shared truths concerning a much-needed biblical basis for environmental ethics and the praxis of creation care with anyone willing to listen.
Working for various secular environmental institutions over my career, I discovered your many writings and soon found an oasis in DeWitt’s work offering the most thoughtful evangelical Christian perspective on creation care. As a mentor and insightful ecological scientist, Cal possesses a unique ability to tell a vibrant and compelling story bridging the unnecessary gap between biblical wisdom and ecological science. Remembering our visit to Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, Cal has never shied away from creating a dialogue with watermen who need to hear the truth that they were overharvesting blue crabs. For these acts and so much more with a grateful heart, I join with many others in seeing Calvin DeWitt as the rightful father of biblical environmental stewardship.