Obituary: Steve E. Wright IV, 1941-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Steve E. Wright IV, 1941-2020 

Former Sterling College president and Fish & Wildlife commissioner dies of Parkinson’s

click to enlarge Steve E. Wright IV
  • Steve E. Wright IV

Steve E. Wright IV, 78, of Craftsbury, Vt., died at home on January 16. Steve was born December 12, 1941, to Stephen Egbert Wright III and Mary Will Johnson Wright in Milledgeville, Ga.

After his father’s death, his mother’s marriage to Felix Billue in 1949 introduced Steve to a family tradition of hunting and fishing. These pursuits led to a lifelong love of the outdoors and shaped his career choices.

Family life with two sons, hunting dogs and a tolerant wife was filled with sports, music, square dancing, and always hunting, fishing, paddling, roaming the woods and lots of storytelling. Steve could rally a roomful of people or hold a dinner party rapt. Storytelling served him well as an educator and advocate, and it endeared him to friends, colleagues and students. He loved sports and played baseball, basketball, football and tennis. Later in life, he played town league baseball with his sons.

Steve earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Georgia Southern College and a master’s degree in aquatic biology/fisheries from the University of Georgia. In 1968, Steve and his wife, Susan, moved with their newborn son, Stephen, to Craftsbury. First hired as a science teacher at the Sterling School, Steve spent 25 years at what eventually became Sterling College. During that time, he held positions as an outdoor educator, in administration and public relations, and for three years as Sterling’s president. Steve inspired students. Long after his Sterling years, former students continued to ask him for career guidance.

Steve took three leaves of absence from Sterling: a 1974 return to Georgia, where he worked as a county extension agent focused on natural resources programming for young people; two years (1979-80) as a wilderness manager for the U.S. Forest Service on the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho; and served as commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department from 1985 to 1988.

Deeply committed to habitat conservation, Steve didn’t shy away from the challenges in that work. He served seven years on the Vermont State Environmental Board. His leadership as a member of the “Rise to the Future” initiative helped quadruple the USDA Forest Service fisheries budget, increasing angling opportunities in our national forests. He retired in 2009 after eight years as New England regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation as a climate change educator.

Barely two years into retirement, Steve became a leading voice opposed to siting 21 turbines along three miles of the Lowell Mountains. It was his last role as an educator — to help Vermonters understand that preserving intact upland forest was more valuable climate action than generating electricity. Today, protecting high-elevation forest from fragmentation is a cornerstone of Vermont’s climate change policy. Steve continued to hunt, fish and canoe as much as his deteriorating health from Parkinson’s allowed. He was known locally for his photographs and was a familiar sight along town roads, hovering over his camera, waiting for perfect light.

He is survived by his sons, Stephen E. Wright V, and Starker Wright; his former wife, Susan Wright; granddaughters Cortland Wright and Brooks Wright and their mother, Lynn Wallace; brothers Frank Billue and Philip Wright and his wife, Diane; nephew, Wesley Wright; and niece, Erin Wright.

Friends and colleagues are invited to a celebration of Steve’s life April 11, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Sterling College. Arrangements are in the care of the Cremation Society of Chittenden County. To send online condolences to his family, please visit cremationsocietycc.com or send directly to The Steve Wright Family, P.O. Box 81, Craftsbury Common, VT 05827. Donations in memory of Steve Wright can be made to Craftsbury Public Library, P.O. Box 74, Craftsbury Common, VT 05827 or to the Craftsbury Historical Society, P.O. Box 55, South Craftsbury Road, Craftsbury, VT 05826.

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