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Island Resources Foundation Founder Edward L. Towle Has Died

Sept. 13, 2006 — Longtime Caribbean conservationist Edward L. Towle died Tuesday at his home in Washington, D.C. He was attended by his wife, relatives and many friends.
His final illness was a result of injuries received in an elevator accident Aug. 28, but he had suffered declining health for several years.
Born Aug. 30, 1929, in Melrose, Mass., Towle was globally recognized for his work conserving and restoring the environment of small islands, particularly in the Caribbean.
From 1972 to 1998, he was the president of Island Resources Foundation in St. Thomas, an organization he founded with his wife, Judith, in 1972. He remained active as a senior environmental planner and chairman of the foundation's board of trustees after his retirement.
Among his many honors, Towle was recognized in 1988 as one of the United Nations Environment Programme's "Global 500" honorees.
He was also the author of more than 60 major publications, primarily on small island development and environmental planning. At the time of his death he was actively involved in planning implementation strategies for the preservation and management of Sandy Cay in the British Virgin Islands.
Additionally, he was the founding president of the Virgin Islands Conservation Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands and president of the regional Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) from 1968 to 1974.
It was during his tenure as president that the CCA emerged as the first regionwide voice for conservation and environmental planning in the Caribbean.
After graduation from Tufts University in 1952, Towle spent two years of active service in the U.S. Navy in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Caribbean, followed by three years ashore teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
He returned to university studies at the University of Rochester in 1960, where he received a Ph.D. in the history of science and served as assistant director of the university's Canadian Studies Program.
In 1964 Towle accepted a teaching post at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, where he also served as the first director of the university's Great Lakes Studies Center.
He then joined the Smithsonian Institution's naval history program, where, while on assignment for the Smithsonian in the Caribbean, he was recruited in 1967 to serve as the second director of the Caribbean Research Institute at the College of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas.
From this time, until just shortly before his death, the Caribbean was Towle's professional base and the focus of his energy and commitment.
It was during the early 1970s that Towle formed his vision for an independent, science-based organization to focus exclusively on protecting and enhancing the environments of small tropical islands. The organization he founded in 1972, the Island Resources Foundation, has for almost three and a half decades been a leader in Caribbean resource conservation, environmental planning and institution building.
During the last quarter of the 20th century, Towle was a major contributor to both global and Caribbeanwide initiatives for small island protection. He frequently appeared as a small islands advocate in international forums and provided services to many international institutions, including the World Conservation Union, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development and many Caribbean regional institutions.
Despite the praise he received throughout the years for the many tangible projects with which he was associated, Towle was always proudest of the intangible products of his work as head of Island Resources Foundation: the accomplishments of the "alumni" of the foundation's many intern and research associate appointments and the many Caribbean environmental advocacy organizations that were directly and indirectly assisted through programs that Towle designed with great care and attention to local needs, resources, and sensitivities.
Even in the last week of his life, he was planning wildlife advocacy projects in support of conservation groups throughout the Caribbean region.
Surviving Towle is his wife and foundation partner for more than 30 years, Judith Ann Towle; along with daughters Amy Swiezynski and Sarah Spoerl; sons Peter and Geoffrey Towle of Exeter, N.H.; daughter Jazz Towle of Portland, Maine; six grandchildren; and sisters-in-law Bonita Fechner and Susan Frey.
A memorial service will be arranged later in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where Towle established a new office of the foundation in 1998.
Mrs. Towle asks that in lieu of flowers friends consider a donation to the Island Resources Foundation.

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