John Muir College and the Environment
Our namesake excelled in many fields and was, among other things, an inventor, writer, explorer, biologist, and botanist. Founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir helped establish our national parks, popularize conservation, and create awareness of the value of unspoiled wilderness.
In his spirit, Muir College supports local, national, and global efforts to preserve the natural environment and to promote environmental sustainability in energy and water use, waste disposal, food production, and other practices. Since 2011, at the college's annual Earth Week Organic Lunch in April, we honor individuals whose work has contributed significantly to the cause of sustainability and environmental preservation by naming 2-3 Muir College Environmental Fellows.
John Muir (1838-1914)
- John Muir was born April 21st, 1838, first son and third child to Daniel and Ann (née Gilrye) Muir in Dunbar. His family emigrated to the United States in 1849.
- Just before his 23rd birthday, Muir enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After five trimesters, he left to spend the last two years of the Civil War in Canada, where he roamed hundreds of miles of untamed forests, studying wildlife, collecting plants, and coming to realize he could survive on his own beyond civilization’s reach.
- After an industrial accident caused him to become temporarily blinded, Muir pursued his dream of visiting South America by taking a 1000 mile walk from Indiana to Florida. On his walk, he witnessed the poverty, destruction and despair left in the aftermath of the Civil War.
- Malaria and limited access to ships meant he never went further than Cuba, before returning to New York, and eventually traveling to San Francisco
- From San Francisco, 29-year-old Muir took his first journey to Yosemite, and began a long period of traveling into and setting up residence in the Sierras. Under the mentorship of friends, Muir began publishing essays and articles detailing his experiences in nature, becoming a sought-after authority on conservation across the country.
- At 42, he married 33-year-old Louisa Wanda (Louie) Strenzel, and settled in Martinez, California. The two eventually raised two daughters: Wanda and Helen.
- Muir’s conservation efforts contributed greatly toward the establishment of America’s national parks: Yellowstone (1872), Yosemite and Sequoia (1890), Mount Rainier (1899), Petrified Forest (1906), and the Grand Canyon (1907).
- In late May, 1892, Muir, in partnership with magazine editor and friend, Robert Underwood Johnson, and San Francisco attorney, Warren Olney, filed the articles of incorporation to transform an informal network of hikers and university intellectuals into what has since become America's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization: the Sierra Club.
- Muir served as the Sierra Club’s first president until his death in 1914, at age 77.