by Mike Zamm
The Environmental Education (EE) community in NYC and the surrounding region has been saddened by the passing of Terry Ippolito. Terry played an extremely significant role in EE for more than a quarter century.
After 16 years as a science teacher, first at St. Joseph’s Academy and then the Packer Collegiate Institute where she was also Director of Admissions (1), Terry came to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1988 as an environmental scientist. When the National Environmental Education Act was passed by Congress in 1990, she was chosen to be the EPA Region 2 coordinator for the embryonic EE program that was created by the Act. (2)
Terry was ideal for the position as she possessed expertise in education, science and the environment. She brought real world insights and commitment into the challenges and delights of teaching about the environment. (3)
Terry’s excellent managerial skills were employed to deliver EE services to Region 2’s broad geographical area which encompasses New York State, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Typical efforts ranged from doing classroom demonstrations on non-point source water pollution to workshops for EPA staff designed to ensure effective Earth Day outreach to providing EE presentations to audiences at national conferences to setting up exhibitions at public venues such as Brooklyn Green or specific EE vehicles like the annual conference of the New Jersey Education Association. Terry also coordinated the materials and services available on EPA’s websites. (4)
Perhaps most important, Terry ran EPA’s grants program in this region which involved the arduous tasks of administering the request for proposals process, soliciting participation from organizations across this vast geographical area, recruiting and supervising evaluators and managing the selection of grantees.
The grants, which over the years ranged from $5,000 to six figures, seeded creative EE projects and supported the delivery of needed services to schools and communities. (5)
From January 2003 through December 2006 (2 terms) Terry was chosen by her peers to be Chairperson of the Environmental Education Advisory Council (EEAC). She did a superb job.
She preserved the organizational growth achieved during the tenure of her predecessors and she added features of her own such as alternating EEAC’s regular steering committee meetings at NYU with hybrid gatherings which combined a brief business meeting with visits to outdoor sites such as Swindlers Cove in Upper Manhattan and the NY Botanical Garden.
This approach familiarized members with EE sites and helped increase participation. The quality of the EEAC newsletter continued to improve during this period as well. Before, during and after her time as Chair, Terry did a great deal to develop programs and to spur growth in membership. As Chairperson, Terry represented EEAC at the Green Horizons conferences which focused on encouraging middle school students to consider environmental careers. Terry did a terrific job speaking to the youth participants. (6)
For many years Terry was one of NYC’s representatives on the Catskill Watershed Corporation’s (CWC) Public Education Advisory Group which reviewed and recommended proposals for funding under CWC’s grants program. Schools and nonprofits from the city and the city’s West of Hudson watersheds benefitted. (7)
Terry also participated in Teacher Environmental Education Preparation (TEEP), an effort by EEAC and the Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education at NYU to convince schools of higher education to integrate more EE into teacher preparation degree programs. She traveled with TEEP committee members to gatherings from PACE University in Westchester County to the University of Rochester in Western New York, to be at TEEP symposia. (8)
Terry won many awards and honors for her work including the prestigious Brandwein Medal for Environmental Excellence. (9)
With all her programmatic and policy initiatives in EE, Terry still found time over the last few years that she worked at EPA, to apply her skills with a kindergarten class. The kids’ attachment to her and their teachers’ appreciation for Terry’s work were evident at Terry’s retirement party where the youngsters thanked her. (10)
The numerous comments made by her colleagues in the aftermath of her passing indicate the enormous personal and professional esteem in which she was held. Terry Cohen, who coordinated school and family programs at the Riverside Park Fund (now the Riverside Park Conservancy), said that Terry’s “availability, support, suggestions and coaching” enabled and encouraged her to continue in her post and develop a thriving program for almost a decade. (11)
Kim Estes-Fradis, who directed EE programming at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection for over 30 years, wrote that Terry was “always there to support our work” and to strengthen EE efforts. Kim remembers that Terry traveled to all the boroughs and to the city’s upstate watersheds. Terry was “kind and thoughtful.” (12)
Tom Hurtubise, Curator of Education for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Queens Zoo, said that “Terry was a huge asset to the EE community and always went beyond her work responsibilities to reach out to us and the programs we presented when she could.” (13)
Terry will be missed, but her work and the impact she has had on environmental education in this region will last for many, many years to come.
Submitted by Mike Zamm, EEAC Steering Committee
1. Obituary, NY Times, May 2021
2, 3, 4. Brandwein Institute, brandwein.org, and Spring 2010 EEAC Newsletter
5, 6, 7, 8, 10. EEAC Newsletter, Winter-Spring 2014
9. Brandwein Institute
11, 12, 13. EEAC Listserv, May 2021