SEJ Mourns Loss of Co-Founder Noel Grove

Image of Noel Grove

Noel Grove, a founding member of SEJ and former environment editor for National Geographic, passed away on January 8, 2022. He also served as editor of SEJournal.

From Noel's obituary: "In 1990, Grove helped found the Society of Environmental Journalists, a non-profit national journalism organization created by and for journalists who report environmental topics in the news media."

Read some of Noel's early-SEJ memories in SEJournal's 20th anniversary issue: "SEJ's Birth," January 15, 2010, by Jim Detjen.

SEJ members share memories of Noel:

"Noel was a wonderful colleague, very dedicated to sharing his love of nature with the rest of the world. His hard work was critical to launching SEJ."

— Emilia Askari, University of Michigan, and a founding SEJ member and former board president


"I first met Noel at the SEJ leadership retreat in 1997, in Boulder. I was a recruit. Noel was an old hand. I felt a bit intimidated by him at first. I was working for a newspaper in California that was fairly new and one that nobody outside the Bay Area had heard of. National Geographic really stood out then and a prestigious publication because there wasn’t much of that kind of global environmental journalism around then, and here was a guy who worked a long time on his stories and traveled all over. I had grown up in the 1960s when National Geographic mag collections were put on display in the living room, along with encyclopedias.

"But I quickly found there was no reason to feel intimidated. He was funny and warm and welcoming and by the time the leadership retreat was over, I felt like if I wanted to, I too could find my way to a career at National Geographic, or wherever I wanted to go.

"That retreat changed my life and he was part of it. I learned that as journalists, we can accomplish so much more,  and enjoy it along the way, if we do it together.

"I am also today remembering the 'grin and bear it' items Noel would put in the SEJournal. Funny little tidbits from our world."

— James Bruggers, Inside Climate News


"I’m so saddened by this. Noel was editor of the SEJournal when I was design editor, and he was a delight to work with over those years. And funny. I recall episodes of spewed coffee on both ends of the phone line.

"Dear, witty, elegant, intelligent — bon voyage, my old friend."

— Chris Bruggers, SEJ Awards and Elections


"I am also very saddened by Noel's death. Noel was deeply involved in the founding of SEJ in 1989 and the early 1990s. I worked with him closely during that period. He was SEJ's founding board treasurer when I was SEJ's founding board president.  Noel was always friendly, warm, witty and fun to be around. He always had wonderful stories to tell about his adventures with National Geographic. I remember when he couldn't make it to one of our early board meetings because he was trapped in Southeast Asia because of a volcanic eruption. In those early days we collected the dues of founding SEJ members and funneled them to Noel who deposited them into SEJ's checking account. He made the first deposit of $1,470 with the dues of SEJ's first 49 members in June 1990. By the time he relinquished his bookkeeping duties to a professional accountant in November 1992 SEJ had a balance of $142,894.18. 'It's like piloting a Sopwith Camel and then a Concorde,' he said at the time.

"R.I.P. Noel. I'm grateful for your friendship."

— Jim Detjen, Founding SEJ Board President and Knight Professor Emeritus of Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University


"I am grateful for his work on environmental issues that helped carve a path for those of us who followed."

— Dennis Dimick, former Environment Editor, National Geographic


"This is heartbreaking. I wrote my first book review for the SEJournal when Noel was still editing. And he was helpful all the years I was on the board and needed a founder's advice or historical memory. I have no idea his age, but he was too young to go."

— Christy George, Independent Editor/Writer/Producer


"I became a huge National Geographic fan in 1988 following the Earth hologram cover and the magazine's consistent excellent global environmental coverage. Meeting Noel, along with other SEJ founders and early members who were equally passionate about telling these critical environmental stories in time to make a difference for the fate of our planet, was just blow-me-away inspirational.

"Getting to know Noel, and Jim, and all the founders back then, well, I knew I had found a home, and I've never left.

"Noel embodied the spirit of what SEJ has always been about. We have a very important job, and it's very hard, and the camaraderie and great humor we've shared keeps us going.

"Here's to Noel and all y'all!"

— Jay Letto, SEJ Conference Director


"My Dad's cousin was Noel's high school principal in Iowa. When I first met Noel in the '90s, he heard my name and got a very funny look on his face, then asked if I was related to George Neužil, his old nemesis (Noel was not a stellar HS student).

"I said yes, and Noel grabbed me by the arm and said, 'would you please, please tell him I made something of myself?' The sincere look on his face...

"He and George are probably having a good laugh about it now. RIP my friend."

— Mark Neužil, University of St. Thomas


"I recall Noel so fondly. He was always so good humored and supportive as a founding board member. Visionary in every way.  ... serving others and the future through SEJ, but in his own work, with such an eye, helping others to see this world. I cherish his giant format book "Birds of North America" as he introduced it 'a compendium of simple wonder,' but especially because he made me a big shot with my then-ten-year-old son in 1996 by inscribing it to him: 'Wishing you the best in decades of loving birds.' Oops I’d better take it over to Dan’s house so his daughters can see that and let Noel make him a big shot too, and inspire their birding over decades as well. Noel, thank you... your legacy is mighty."

— Beth Parke, SEJ Founding Director (Retired)


"Noel was the epitome of what SEJ is about — welcoming to all, newcomers and old-timers alike. Whenever I saw him, he always had a kind word and a few minutes to catch up."

— Tim Wheeler, Bay Journal



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