John C. Bozak Jr.

Excellence in Teaching

Emeritus Professor of Forestry
Thompson School of Applied Science


Photographed on July 23, 2004, at Berry Best Farm, Lebanon, Maine

 

John C. Bozak Jr.

As a young man, John Bozak spent several years in the western Oregon Cascades, working with the U.S. Forest Service in old growth forests of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Some trees were well over 200 feet tall and greater than 10 feet in diameter at chest height. Many were 400-500 years old, or even older. More recently, in North Carolina ’s Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, he recalls the stands of ancient Tulip (or Yellow) Poplars and describes them as “huge and magnificent specimens.”

“What has always impressed me is the tremendous responsibility we foresters—and the public as well—have in managing, conserving, and protecting these ancient trees whose natural life spans are many times our own,” Bozak says.

As a professor of forest technology for the past 36 years, the heart of Bozak’s work has been teaching his students to appreciate the complexities and responsibilities of sound forest management. “We’ve always taught our students that forest resources—the wood, wildlife, soil—are renewable and useful,” he says, “but the real challenge is to underscore the importance of making our forests sustainable.”

Keenly aware of increasing pressure on New England ’s land base, Bozak encourages his students to put their knowledge and skills together to create viable solutions. In one course, students develop a long-term management plan in partnership with a private landowner. The result is a two-way education that benefits all participants. “It’s a little bit of insurance that good management will continue,” he says. “Even though the forester may change, or the landowner may change, that plan stays with that piece of land.” That is important, particularly in New Hampshire where currently 10,000 acres are lost to development each year.

Providing hands-on opportunities is typical of Bozak’s pragmatic approach. “He has real experience in forestry,” says Stephen Eisenhaure, a recent Thompson School graduate and current master’s degree candidate in Natural Resources. “It’s a lot easier learning from someone when you know they’ve done it before and done it well.”

“He’s an amazing teacher,” adds Bozak’s colleague, Associate Professor Kate Hanson, “effective and patient—and he treats both students and peers with respect.”

And don’t forget his sense of humor, adds Geoff Jones, director of Land Management for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, who has known Bozak as a professor, a colleague, and a friend. “He’s always had a wonderful way of inviting people to learn,” he says of the punster who is famous for sprinkling his lectures with jokes and funny cartoons.

Now Bozak says that it’s time to shift gears. He has retired and will certainly miss the close-knit environment of the Thompson School. But, he says, “I have a woodlot to manage and our 75-acre farm in Maine. The one my wife, Christine, grew up on.”

As perhaps his final official duty, Bozak served as faculty marshal at Commencement. True to form, he couldn’t resist surprising his listeners by infusing his remarks with poetry. On this occasion he chose former UNH professor Clark Steven’s poem “Something About a Tree.” “It draws some parallels between the natural world and ourselves,” he told his audience. Steven’s second verse seemed written expressly for Bozak:

If I could learn to alternate the days
Of strong production with the days of rest
And in my older years provide the best
Of strength, of beauty, and of shaded ways
How fortunate indeed my life would be,
If I had all the power of a tree.

—Sarah Aldag