Joan Major reacts as husband Ted recalls 50 years of Teton Science School history during a ceremony at the campus in Grand Teton National Park July 20. Former students and longtime supporters of the institution recognized the couple for launching and sustaining programs that have educated an estimated 150,000 students about science and the outdoors. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Former students and supporters of the Teton Science School honored founders Ted and Joan Major at a 50th anniversary ceremony at the institution’s campus in Grand Teton National Park on July 20.

About 100 persons attended a ceremony during which the Majors and others recalled the purpose of and accomplishments by the school. There were some lean years before the school settled into a repurposed log-cabin dude ranch in the park and became a year-round institution attracting students for week-long stays.

“We wanted to use the outdoors as much as possible — and we did,” Ted Major said.

Graduates and instructors influenced by the science school went on to further others’ understanding of science and nature. Author Terry Tempest Williams was among the first students and has become a voice for the natural world in the West.

Grizzly bear activist Louisa Willcox, also the former director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, taught field ecology at the school. Penelope Morgan, a professor at the University of Idaho undertook a research project while at the school, studying fire ecology. It led her to her field of expertise, in which she earned a Ph.D. Renee Askins taught at the science school before founding the Wolf Fund that became instrumental in gray wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park in 1995.

Last week the latest crop of students, including ones from Baltimore, Cheyenne, San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, and La Paz, Mexico, joined the celebration and gave brief reports to the Majors about their week’s work.

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“You don’t see wolves in New York,” Carolyn Cabeza told the gathering about her eye-opening experiences. “We also learned about the scientific method – how we can discover things about the natural world we didn’t know before.”

Ted Major is now 96, Joan 94.

In the 50 years since its founding, the Teton Science School has expanded into a larger nonprofit organization that today has multiple campuses and programs including pre-K-12 Journeys School, pre-K–8 Teton Valley Community School, graduate programs for educators, wildlife expeditions and the Murie Center.

In all, some 150,000 students and participants have been influenced by Ted and Joan Major’s ideas and work.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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