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Norma Edsall: Her Passion for Nature and Learning Will Live On

Red-bellied Woodpecker by Richard Lee. Norma Edsall's favorite bird.

Norma Edsall, recently of Austerlitz, New York, always has a pair of binoculars handy. It all started with her father, a high school chemistry teacher as adept in the out-of-doors as in the laboratory. He kindled her interest in birds and flowers and taught her to keep her eyes open.

Norma attended Cornell, graduated in 1958, and admits she only visited the Lab of Ornithology once during her Cornell years—it didn’t open until 1957. Her move to Stanford as a graduate student opened her eyes to a whole new set of birds and expanded her appreciation of the natural world. After obtaining a master’s degree in counseling and guidance, she returned to the east to work at SUNY Albany.

In 1969, she and her friend, Alice Corbin, settled in Austerlitz and established a backyard bird feeding station. They enjoyed, and still do, watching the comings and goings of feeder birds, and they were moved to monitor and record bird activities at their feeders. In that regard they became charter participants in Project Feeder Watch in 1987 and have dutifully tracked feeder birds for 5 years.

As an enthusiastic alumna, Norma has participated in and supported Cornell activities since her 1958 graduation, though it is the value of a good academic experience that has driven her Cornell philanthropy.

“I appreciate the value of a good education and want to help others have the same opportunities I had,” she commented.

In keeping with her high regard for a good education, Norma arranged an estate gift that will fund two graduate fellowships at Cornell: one at Cornell Plantations, the other at the Lab of Ornithology. With the help of Cornell estate planners, she was able to corral her assets (life insurance policies, IRAs, and appreciated stocks and bonds) and arrange to pass them along to Cornell as an advised bequest. It will fund the Edsall Ornithology Graduate Fellowship at the Lab of Ornithology and the Edsall Public Garden Leader Graduate Fellowship at Cornell Plantations.

In the future, a host of students will benefit from Norma’s generosity—and her passion for nature and learning, passed down from her father, will live on.



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