Christie Lowrance ’65, a longtime freelance writer and college composition teacher from Sandwich, Mass., is the author of a 320-page biography, “Nature’s Ambassador: The Legacy of Thornton W. Burgess,” which was released by Schiffer Publishing in August 2013. She spent more than four years researching and writing the book on the life and extraordinary career of Thornton Burgess (1874-1965), a 20th century children’s author, influential naturalist, and radio pioneer.
“The biography covers Thornton Burgess’ Cape Cod childhood which provides the means of understanding important elements of his character,” she says. “It also covers his literary career, from his 16 years as a journalist to his international success as a children’s author of 70 books. Twenty were translated into Japanese. But the least-known aspect of Thornton Burgess’ life is his significance to early 20th-century conservation and his passion for environmental education. His work and friendships with esteemed scientists are documented by letters I obtained from the Smithsonian Institution, Bowdoin College, the University of New Brunswick, and the Thornton W. Burgess Society.”
What Lowrance believes readers can take away from the biography is the breadth of impact that Burgess appeared to have had on American environmental values. She explains, “Dr. William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Society, credited him as early as 1919 with influencing millions of children through his animal stories and syndicated newspaper columns. Burgess’ last book came out in 1965, the year I graduated from William Smith; he was 91 years old. I am inspired by his focus and dedication to nature and writing.”
In writing the book, she conducted approximately 90 interviews. “The commitment to this biography began first as simply seeing a timely story around the 100th anniversary of his first children’s book, ‘Old Mother West Wind’,” she says.
Lowrance credits the Colleges for helping reach her potential as a writer. “The liberal arts education I received at William Smith prepared me to relish the grand scope of history, literature and culture, to look around the corner for answers rather than on the path before me, to enjoy knowledge for its own sake. Hobart and William Smith Colleges are a wonderful part of my life experience.”
The author also provides advice for current students on their way to a successful future. “I believe every person you meet in life presents an opportunity to learn,” she says, “and you often learn more by asking questions than by providing answers.”
She is the third member of her family to graduate from the Colleges, following the legacy of her father, Howard “Bud” Palmer Jr. ’33 and her grandfather, Howard Palmer Sr. ’03. Lowrance graduated from William Smith with a B.A. in English and obtained an M.A. in professional writing from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times, Good Housekeeping, Oceans, Country Journal, Americana, and Cape Cod Life. She co-authored Insider’s Guide to Cape Cod and was a writer/editor for Fodor’s Travel Guides for many years.
Lowrance has taught writing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Cape Cod Community College.