Introducing Friends of the Everglades at Stetson University  

First-ever campus chapter features student-led initiatives to advance mission to preserve, protect and restore the only Everglades in the world.

Friends of the Everglades is thrilled to announce Stetson University as the home of our first-ever campus chapter featuring student-led initiatives to advance the mission originally set in 1969 by our founder, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Located in DeLand, the Stetson campus sits in the St. John’s watershed just north of the headwaters of the Greater Everglades ecosystem. This fixture of advocacy near the northernmost region of Florida’s River of Grass further cements Friends’ resolve to tackle water issues that plague the state holistically, and speaks to the powerful inspiration of Everglades National Park as a World Heritage Site to all stakeholders — even those outside of it’s official boundaries.

Today’s announcement of the campus chapter at Stetson University holds special meaning because April 7 marks Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ birthday and Everglades Action Day. The chapter will promote educational activities and experiential learning opportunities in an effort to mold passionate leaders and an engaged community to facilitate ongoing Everglades conservation measures.

“As students attending a college in Florida, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on local issues. One of these is the past and present destruction of the Everglades ecosystem for convenience and profit at the expense of the future. It is a challenge that demands the attention of every Florida resident,” said Audrey Berlie, Stetson freshman and lead student organizer of the new campus chapter. “While the Everglades is valued for its serene beauty, it is our reliance on the environmental processes of this slow-moving river that characterizes its importance. When the Everglades suffers, so do the people. That is why the Everglades needs our protection.”

“Marjory would think it fitting that the first collegiate chapter of Friends be founded at Stetson, Florida’s first private university,” said Friends of the Everglades board member, Connie Washburn. “Marjory often said, ‘The only hope for saving the Everglades is to get young people involved, as it is their future.’”

Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience offers a harmonious cohesion of goals for Friends of the Everglades and its first campus chapter. The Institute’s focus on water and environmental research in order to offer policy solutions to protect natural resources makes it naturally suited to guide the campus chapter.

Jason Evans, Executive Director of the Institute, describes drawing personal inspiration from the legacy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and will aid in the chapter’s setting and execution of priorities as the faculty advisor. “I am so proud of our student leaders who took the initiative to launch a student club chapter with Friends of the Everglades. As a lifelong fan of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ writings and advocacy for the Florida environment, it is especially gratifying to see this generation of students affirm their passion and commitment for continuing Douglas’ monumental legacy of action and care.”

Friends of the Everglades is proud to provide the guidance and resources necessary to help launch its pilot collegiate chapter and is hopeful its success will fuel the next age of environmental leaders, at Stetson and beyond.

Bill Roberts, a Stetson Alumnus whose mother was friends with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was the first to suggest the introduction of a campus chapter. Thanks to the hard work of many, his vision is now a reality. “I am so proud of Stetson students for taking this important step to establish the first collegiate chapter of Friends of the Everglades. This is a collaboration that will enhance students’ educational opportunities as well as expand the mission and grassroots efforts of Friends to preserve Florida’s most treasured water resource.”