From The Moon to Dartmouth, Malcolm Johnston Lived a Life of Purpose

Perhaps it’s the perspective of working on projects in outer space that make Malcolm Johnston aware of just how precious our open spaces around Dartmouth are. After helping to put Apollo 11 on the moon, Malcolm served on boards and committees around the greater Boston area that focused on conservation of special places, including Mass Audubon’s Board of Directors. Twenty years ago, Malcolm chose Dartmouth as the place to raise his son and to fulfill his calling for saving open space. He was eager to help develop Mass Audubon’s Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary off of Horseneck Road, among other projects. Thanks to his tireless efforts, along with those of his wife Sally and several friends and comrades in conservation, the sanctuary has grown from a mere 70 acres to more than 600 acres since Malcolm got involved.

Malcolm clearly is not the sort of MIT scientist to sit in an ivory tower. He is willing to get down in the trenches and do anything from heavy lifting to the mundane. In fact, one of the first tasks he performed for brand-new Mass Audubon Sanctuary Director Gina Purtell was pulling invasive Johnsongrass with the goal of restoring native prairie grasses to former cornfields that had recently been added to the sanctuary. In his role of sanctuary advisor, Malcolm worked to secure the sanctuary’s financial stability. He has donned the hat of “Chief Duck” for the Allens Pond Duck Derby every year for 14 years, helping to secure many of the prizes including sponsors of the grand prize: dinner for two anywhere in the world. He can also claim credit for selling nearly half of the first-prize tickets while at the Bayside Restaurant, the Dartmouth Farmer’s Market or Padanaram Day.

At Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, Malcolm has been a mainstay on its Land Acquisition Committee for the past 15 years, as well as a member of its board of directors from 2005 to 2011. Most recently, Malcolm played a key role in helping DNRT and the Buzzards Bay Coalition raise nearly $3 million in private donations as part of a $9 million project to protect the 115-acre Ocean View Farm — the last, large, unprotected parcel on Allens Pond. Roughly half of the parcel will be kept in active agriculture and the remainder under the stewardship of DNRT, working in collaboration with next-door-neighbor Mass Audubon. This success story wouldn’t have happened without Malcolm’s abilities to bring the right people to the table, listen well and speak clearly, and leverage all available resources. His passion for land conservation and friendly, outgoing nature made it hard for potential donors to say “no.” While keeping an eye on important conservation opportunities, Malcolm has always been mindful of making sure these properties have the endowment and institutional stability necessary for long-term stewardship, and he leads by example.

Malcolm has also been an avid Lloyd Center volunteer and supporter over the years, lending a hand whenever needed, from serving on the renovation committee for the Visitor Center from 2005-2006 to volunteering for each of many years at the Center’s annual clambake. By building the owl mew in 2010, Malcolm provided a home for Koko, the Center’s in-residence Eastern Screech owl. This building allows the Lloyd Center to house an animal ambassador that has captivated and inspired hundreds of local students, adults and families. This gift will continue to benefit the Center and the community for years to come. Malcolm and wife Sally have always been there to help the Center when in need and because of that, and all their work with local environmental organizations, they were the recipients of the Lloyd Center’s 2015 George G. Haydock Award. In addition to sharing their time, labor, energy and enthusiasm, Malcolm and Sally have both passed on their love for caring for the environment to their son Doug, who interned in the Lloyd Center’s education department for two summers.

We who benefit from Malcolm’s commitment, vision, powers of persuasion, and strength of friendship wish to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for all that he has done to make Dartmouth more special for its protected landscapes, its centers of environmental learning and its beautiful trails and vistas available for the benefit of all. Malcolm is a true example of the power each individual has within them to make a difference.

Gina Purtell, Mass Audubon
Dexter Mead, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust
Rachel Stronach, Lloyd Center for the Environment