Alumni Profile: Diana Stillwell Dove
Dove is a passionate advocate of outdoor-based, hands-on learning.
Her programs promote early childhood environmental education and
encourage youngsters to think and learn for themselves.
(Photo by Cathy Miller)
Though every day is different for Diana Stillwell Dove (‘81 B.S. in forestry and wildlife management, ‘81 B.A. in communications), two things remain constant — her ability to think outside the box and her determination to never give up. The first Virginia Tech student to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in both forestry and wildlife management and in communication, Dove paid for her own education while pursuing these degrees, as well as a concentration in biology, for over six and a half years. It was not an easy road — Dove worked as a resident advisor, a singer in restaurant lounges, and an employee in the registrar’s office while completing her diverse course requirements.
Dove began her career as an environmental educator as a summer seasonal naturalist for New Jersey’s Somerset County Parks in her sophomore year, and she stayed on as a senior naturalist after graduation. Dove and her husband, Mike, now co-own Dove Environmental Education in Washington, N.J., which offers 30 environmental education programs.
Known for her creative programming, Dove is a sought-after presenter who leads guided walks, pond studies, and featured programs. Interactive program components include singing, guitar playing, crafts, photography, taxidermy animals, natural artifacts, field guides, animal costumes and puppets, field activities, gardening, and original multi-media shows. The Cape Cod whale trips that Dove Environmental Education offers on board the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, Mass., have led to new programs about whales, sharks, and sea turtles, motivating kids to learn more about protecting the world’s oceans.
“As an environmental educator, knowing your subject matter and applying communication skills go hand-in-hand,” says Dove. “It’s important to be passionate about your career.” Dove has consistently motivated people of all ages to become engaged in taking action. Recognizing her educational programming for the very young, the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education honored her as “Environmental Educator of the Year” in 2000.
Dove’s passion for the outdoors does not end with her job; she also serves her community. She founded the Warren Junior Gardeners Club in 1997 and serves as president of the not-for-profit Karen Nash Memorial Butterfly Garden, which the club tends to. This award-winning youth garden club and schoolyard wildlife habitat garden serve as role models nationwide.
Life is rarely without obstacles, and Dove encountered a formidable one when doctors diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis nine years ago. Though a serious concern, the diagnosis has not dampened her enthusiasm for working outdoors with children. “I still do the things I love,” she says. “That makes me a happy person!”
Dove credits her experience at Virginia Tech for providing her with the tools needed to pursue her passions. “I will always be indebted to my professors,” she says. “I’m still using information I learned in my classes. If you love what you do, you do it well and succeed.” And succeed she certainly has.