A Love of Nature is a Family Affair

Five Questions for the Gosnell Foundation
Rocky shoreline around a calm pond. In the distance, rolling green mountains
Acadia National Park - NPS Photo / Victoria Stauffenberg

Meet Susan Gosnell Brown, Terry Gosnell Doggett, Kate Hollingsworth Gelatt, and Kristin Hagedorn Doggett. These four powerhouse women run the John G. and Jean R. Gosnell Foundation, which has supported important National Park Foundation projects, including our Women in Parks initiative. Women in Parks was launched to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment in 2020. Read on to learn why the women of the Gosnell Foundation chose to support this important work.

Why did the Gosnell Foundation start supporting the National Park Foundation?

Our (Terry and Susan’s) parents, Jack and Jean, started the foundation in 1997. Since their passing, we have tried to honor their passion for both nature and education by supporting causes they would have felt were worthwhile. As an all-female board, we are particularly drawn to women-centric programs. The National Park Foundation, and especially its Women in Parks initiative, fits the bill perfectly.

Can you tell us a bit about your family’s connection with the national parks?

Two young children stop along a gravel path, lined with trees. Ahead of them, a man in a sweatshirt and hat walks further down the path, leading the way.

Jack Gosnell with his grandchildren, Drew and Tyler Doggett

The Gosnell Family

Jack and Jean both loved to be out in nature. Our family’s frequent visits to the Chesapeake Bay and to Acadia National Park in Maine provided the backdrop to so many treasured memories. Boating and crabbing on the Bay … hiking Flying Mountain Trail in Acadia … learning to swim … simply watching the insects and birds … these experiences are part of our family’s soul.

Having three generations together on the later trips – Jack and Jean plus us kids and grandkids – was magical. Whether it was watching the little ones pick blueberries in Maine or living in our bathing suits all summer long on the Bay, none of us will forget the time we spent together as a family.

Can you share a bit about who Jack and Jean were as people?

They were so fun and energetic! They loved playing board games with us, teaching us to waterski and sail, and would even bundle up to play in the snow with us in the wintertime. They were a wonderful partnership. Jean was artistic and observant, always excited to show us treasures in nature – an interesting bug, or a snake, or a wildflower.

During the workweek Jack was a brilliant engineer, but out in the parks he showed us how to slow down and appreciate being in nature. He taught each of us how to read a map, follow the blazes, and respect the trails – and when to stop and just take in the view. He never made it a lesson. But his example showed us how to slow down and appreciate nature and our time together as a family.

Why are the parks especially important right now?

Growing up in the crazy hustle and bustle of the D.C. area, the parks were places of solace and refuge for us. But in 2020, with everyone’s activities so constrained, it’s becoming clear how getting outside even for a short while can restore your mindset.

Especially for Kristin and Kate, who both have young children at home, getting out to garden or go for a hike as a family is like hitting nature’s “reset” button. Fresh air is medicinal. Now more than ever, we need these places to take a deep breath, literally and figuratively, and reflect on what’s most important in life. And at the Foundation, we feel called to help more people, especially from underserved areas in D.C., access the mental, physical, and emotional benefits of green space.

Why did you decide to support Women in Parks?

Two women pose and smile at the camera. One is a park ranger in uniform and the other is dressed like "Rosie the Riveter"

Park visitor and park ranger at Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historical Park

NPS Photo / Luther Bailey

Being all women ourselves, it’s important to us for other women’s voices to be heard – especially those who have overcome adversity to build a better future for our country. That's where our passions lie.

We see the National Park Foundation’s Women in Parks initiative as an opportunity to tell women’s stories in a clear and accurate way – stories that may never have been fully shared before. These stories matter, and we’re proud to be a part of this work. 

If we can play even a small role in the preservation of our national parks and the wonderful programming they provide, we will feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Jack and Jean provided such incredible experiences in nature to their kids and grandkids, and we want to do the same for future generations.

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