Posted: December 2, 2022

Center for Private Forests renamed to honor Jim Finley

Credit: Michael Houtz

Credit: Michael Houtz

Penn State and its College of Agricultural Sciences recently renamed the Center for Private Forests at Penn State in honor of its founder, the late James C. (Jim) Finley, an outstanding academic scholar and teacher whose pioneering work at the interface of people and forests reached hundreds of thousands of people.

Finley's scholarship and service were national in scope but drew their inspiration from the 740,000-plus private woodland owners in Pennsylvania, stewardship of the 12 million acres of forest they own, and the forestry and natural resource professionals supporting private land stewardship. The James C. Finley Center for Private Forests puts Penn State at the forefront of private forestry research, teaching, and practice nationwide.

"Honoring members of the Penn State community who are dedicated to excellence in research, teaching, and service is a longstanding tradition of the University," said former Penn State President Eric J. Barron. "With this naming, the University hopes to recognize Professor Finley's work and to ensure that the innovative research methods and the stewardship values and practices he espoused will endure."

Finley's career had a broad scope, encompassing forestry practice and the connections between people and the natural world. From his beginning as an extension educator in Sullivan County through his service as the Ibberson Chair in Private Forest Management and professor emeritus of private forest management and human dimensions and natural resources, Finley was always innovating, learning, and teaching.

He touched the lives of hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom became lifetime friends and colleagues. And he touched the lives of thousands of private landowners and natural resource professionals, inspiring all to be better stewards of private forests.

"Jim's pioneering academic scholarship has been instrumental in expanding understanding of forestry practice and identifying ways of fostering connections between individuals and communities and the natural world that surrounds them," said Rick Roush, dean of the college. "Over the course of his career, he inspired and shaped the work of innumerable students, professionals, fellow academic scientists, and forest landowners who shared his interest in stewardship of natural resources."

Despite officially retiring in 2017, Finley continued to work tirelessly on behalf of the center, serving as its volunteer council chair, working on applied research projects, and writing about what it meant to be a steward of the woods. Tragically, he was killed in an accident while tending the Finley family woodland in October 2021.

--Jeff Mulhollem