Written by Bryan Watts
October 9, 2008
Mitchell A. Byrd is Chancellor Professor Emeritus of Biology at the College of William & Mary. A member of the faculty since 1956, Professor Byrd served as chairman of the biology department for thirteen years during a time of rapid growth and directed its transition to a nationally recognized department with a broad-based curriculum.
Over the years, Professor Byrd has instructed thousands of undergraduate students and advised over three dozen graduate students. Many of these students have been inspired by his commitment to scholarship and his deep concern for each individual. Dispersed across the nation, these students have made important contributions of their own.
The successful careers of many graduates reflect a strong commitment to education, but some of Professor Byrd’s most recognized contributions to the community extend well beyond the classroom. Dr. Byrd is frequently thought of as one of the pioneers of wildlife conservation in Virginia. His contributions to the management of threatened and endangered species have been synonymous with the history of conservation in the state. In recognition of these conservation achievements, Professor Byrd has received dozens of state and regional awards. His willingness to meet and speak with public groups throughout the region has resulted in a more informed public.
Although Professor Byrd has had many academic accomplishments, likely his most lasting legacy is his commitment to convey an environmental ethic to a public audience. The seeds that he has shown over many years have flowered into the environmental movement that we all benefit from today. The Center for Conservation Biology along with the college community seeks to acknowledge this contribution by establishing the Mitchell A. Byrd Chair in Conservation Biology. This is truly one of the highest honors that can be bestowed by the academic community.