OSU forestry alum Henry Gholz dies in climbing accident


Henry Gholz (contributed photo)

Henry Gholz, an Oregon State University forestry alum from Fort Collins, Colorado, died from a fall in a climbing accident Sept. 30 in Rocky Mountain National Park. He was 65.

Born Nov. 24, 1951, Gholz had recently retired from his position as Program Director in the Division of Environmental Biology with the National Science Foundation.

“Henry was a proven leader who was dedicated to our profession and was an outstanding member of the community,” said Troy Hall, department head of Forest Ecosystems & Society in the College of Forestry. “Henry had a long association with OSU, from his educational years as a student, to collaborations with our faculty. In addition to his academic contributions, Henry’s impact was felt through his contributions to the USDA, USAID, and certainly through his many years at the NSF. But his biggest impacts may derive from the 16 years he spent making hundreds of grants in Ecosystem Science to a huge number of students, researchers and faculty members across the country.”

In 1971 at the age of 19, Gholz decided to veer from his path toward a physics degree and moved to Oregon from New York, where he began attending Oregon State University. He eventually received both his bachelor’s and PhD degrees in the College of Forestry. After graduation, Gholz continued his relationship with OSU, including with many of his mentors, colleagues, friends. His graduate work included many years of work in the Andrews Forest.

“Henry was just here to receive our Outstanding Alumni Award this spring,” said College of Forestry Dean Thomas Maness. “He was wonderful with our students and truly represented the best of what our college strives to be: engaged, adventurous, and long-sighted. Henry’s wife, Jan, is also an alumna from the College of Forestry, and we send our most heartfelt condolences to her.”

After leaving OSU, Gholz spent 22 years as professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Florida, working in managed and natural forests of the southeastern US and in the tropics. During that time, he also served as an advisor to USDA, as a AAAS Fellow for the US Agency for International Development, and on many review panels for various agencies.

Gholz moved to Washington, DC, and the National Science Foundation in 2000, where he was program director in the Division of Environmental Biology until he retired in October 2016. During his time at NSF he was lead program director for the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program for a decade, program director for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) through its final renewal phase, and charter program director for the MacroSystems Biology Program.

“Henry was a wonderful person, who loved science, loved life, and loved his wife Jan,” said Roberta Marinelli, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. “His leadership of LTER at NSF, and his open and collaborative nature, led to significant expansion and new dimensions for the LTER program.  He will be missed by colleagues and friends worldwide.”

He is survived by his wife, Jan Engert, assistant director for Science Application and Communication at the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins; his three children, Nathan, Sophia, and Sean; and three grandchildren.

A service was held Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Fort Collins.

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