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Hefner Named NMH’s First Environmental Studies Chair

Hefner Named NMH’s First Environmental Studies Chair

Veteran science teacher Mary Hefner has been named Northfield Mount Hermon’s first Margaret J. Sieck '72 Endowed Teaching Chair in Environmental Studies, in recognition of her distinguished work in the field.

"We are very excited about the opportunities this endowed chair opens for us and thrilled that we can recognize Mary Hefner's work,” said Bea Garcia, NMH’s dean of faculty and assistant head for academic programs. “Mary has dedicated her career to work in the area of sustainability and farming. She has inspired hundreds of students to take responsibility in their relationship with the land and the environment."

Teacher Mary Hefner and a student working in the greenhouse on the NMH farm.

Over her 37-year career at NMH, Hefner has taught courses in biology, botany, and environmental studies and co-led travel programs in Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Brazil. Most recently, she developed and teaches in NMH’s new farm semester program, an immersive, experiential course that combines studies in science and the humanities with hands-on work. Using the campus farm as a classroom, the program connects students to food production, soil health, and the environmental and cultural significance of land stewardship.

Endowed chairs support teachers through compensation and continuing education and professional development, as well as travel opportunities. In turn, recipients work closely with academic colleagues to help shape programs that reflect NMH’s mission and values. Chair holders are leaders on campus and in their fields.

Funded by former NMH trustee Margaret J. Sieck ’72, P’03 and her husband, Bob Baldwin P’03, the Sieck Endowed Teaching Chair will support Hefner in her teaching and ongoing work to advance environmental studies at NMH, including evaluating the farm program, visiting local farms, designing projects, and coordinating interdisciplinary work across the curriculum. Donating the chair was an excellent fit for Sieck’s and Baldwin’s interests: In their retirements, they have worked to protect water quality in central New Jersey and to educate people about climate change.

Endowed chair recipients are appointed by the head of school. “Endowed chairs recognize outstanding teachers like Mary,” said Head of School Brian Hargrove. “Dedicated, innovative educators like Mary are a testament to the vital role that teachers play in shaping the lives of our students at NMH. 

“We’re grateful to supporters like Margaret Sieck and Bob Baldwin,” Hargrove added. “The Sieck Chair directly supports each and every student, affirms NMH’s leadership in environmental studies, and honors our abiding commitment to deep learning and excellent teaching.”

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