Allen Morgan

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For other people named Allen Morgan, see Allen Morgan (disambiguation).
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Allen Morgan (Allen Hungerford Morgan) (August 12, 1925 – May 13, 1990) of Wayland, Massachusetts was a noted ornithologist, tireless environmental advocate, avid tennis player, and founder of Sudbury Valley Trustees.


"Alan is a born and gifted field naturalist, is one of the best and most active of the younger observers of birds in the State of Massachusetts and furnishes monthly observations of interest for the Bird Bulletin of the New England Museum of Natural History in Boston and for my own Season Reports on New England Bird life in the National Audubon Magazine." (Griscom, 1942)

"He was a conservationist long before it was fashionable, and an inspiring public speaker who could galvanize his audience into action. His untiring spirit, unwavering beliefs, and powers of persuasion brought him success time and time again as he rescued thousands of acres of open space from the threat of development." (Atkins, 1990)

Ornithologist of note[edit]

A protégé of Ludlow Griscom, Morgan's life list comprised more than 600 different birds. He saw the very first black-backed gull ever recorded in the Sudbury Valley. Morgan was also a member of a team of three birders who sighted North America's first cattle egret in April 1952. He started keeping bird journals on February 18, 1936 to record where he went, when he went, how many birds he saw, and what was interesting about each birding excursion, a practice that he kept religiously up until the late 1960s.


Morgan attended Wayland public schools, Mount Prospect School for Boys in Waltham, and Weston High School in Weston, Massachusetts. His interest in ornithology began in 1934 when an English and Latin teacher at Mount Prospect, David Lloyd Garrison, came to class all excited about an orange-crowned warbler that he had seen at Totten's Pond in back of the school, a very rare sighting for Waltham. Garrison was a close friend of the famed ornithologist Ludlow Griscom.

Morgan gave his first public lecture on birds and conservation to the Wayland Garden Club in 1938, and was elected the first non-Harvard student member of the Harvard Ornithological Club in 1939 at age 14.

Through Garrison, Morgan had the opportunity to meet Russell Mason, then director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society (Mass Audubon), and in 1940, he got to know Mason further during a summer job with the curator of the Boston Society of Natural History, cleaning and cataloging a collection of bird skins housed adjacent to the Mass Audubon headquarters in Boston. He joined Mass Audubon as a member in 1941 and during that year he gave another lecture to the Wayland Garden Club, using a bird-song record and color slides borrowed from Massachusetts Audubon. The club later established a wildlife sanctuary in the Wayland river marshes.

In early 1943, Morgan left high school halfway through his senior year at Weston High School to enter Bowdoin College. He joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve in February, and was employed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service during May and June, working on a gull control project along the Maine coast. He was called to duty by the Marine Corps in July 1943 and was assigned to officer training at Dartmouth College. He served in the Marine Corps in North and South Carolina, Virginia, and California from 1944-1946.

Following graduation from Bowdoin in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Morgan took a job as an insurance underwriter at Aetna Casualty & Surety Company in Hartford, Connecticut. He left Hartford in 1950 to partner with his father, a life insurance salesman in Boston, Massachusetts, but was recalled to the Marine Corps later in the year. He resigned his commission with the Marine Corps and returned to the life insurance business in 1951. He received his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from The American College in 1957.

Shortly thereafter, a friend told Morgan that he had attended a local showing of films by Richard Borden, the famous Walt Disney Company wildlife film-maker and that a cattle egret apparently had been captured in the film that had been shot only five months earlier. The next day, Morgan met with Borden, viewed the film and confirmed the recording. Morgan wrote scripts for several of Borden's films, leading to his own interest in wildlife photography. He began to shoot his own 16 millimeter films and sold footage to the Disney Company. Morgan lectured extensively (logging in excess of 100 speaking engagements during some years). He called his presentation "Conservation is Common Sense".

Sudbury Valley Trustees[edit]

Morgan began a campaign to preserve "open space" for people, and habitats for wildlife in 1953. During that year, working with six friends (B. Allen Benjamin, Dr. George K. Lewis, Henry Parker, Willis B. Ryder, Richard Stackpole, and Roger P. Stokey), he founded the Sudbury Valley Trustees, Inc. (SVT), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve land and protect wildlife habitat in the Concord, Assabet, and Sudbury river watersheds in eastern Massachusetts for the benefit of present and future generations. The marsh wren on cattail logo of SVT (shown below at the right) is part of the enduring legacy left by Morgan. That logo, prepared under the supervision of, and at the direction of, Allen Morgan, uniquely illustrates Morgan's vision for the organization at its inception.

Massachusetts Audubon Society[edit]

In 1956 Richard Borden, the newly appointed president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, asked Morgan to join its Board of Directors. Morgan was appointed Audubon's fifth executive vice president less than a year later in November, 1957.

Under Morgan's stewardship, Mass Audubon established its first scientific staff and oversaw its transition from a bird watching and educational group of 4,500 members and 65 permanent staff in 1957 to the largest and most influential conservation organization in the region with a permanent staff of 145 and nearly 28,000 members by the time he left in 1980. Morgan expanded educational programs, established numerous wildlife sanctuaries, and expanded Mass Audubon's nature centers. Morgan traveled widely on behalf of Mass Audubon and lobbied successfully for conservation legislation at both the state and federal level.

Mass Audubon established the Allen Morgan Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1990 as a tribute to Morgan. Mass Audubon awards this prestigious prize to "an individual who demonstrates the dedication, passion, and daring that Morgan exhibited in protecting the natural world."



Morgan served on the Wayland Planning Board from 1958 to 1972. He founded the Wayland Conservation Commission in 1959, serving as its Chairman until 1972. He was a member of the Massachusetts Legislative Oversight Committee on Water Pollution in 1966. Morgan was Chairman of the Governor Francis W. Sargent's Committee for Reorganizing the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources from 1969 to 1971. He served on or consulted with a number of environmental committees, boards, and government commissions, including the Sudbury Valley Trustees, The Environmental Policy Center (Washington, D.C.), the Center for Energy Policy, the New England Wildflower Preservation Society, the Wayland Conservation Commission, the Elbanobscot Foundation, Inc., the National Wildlife Federation, the national Rural Environment and Conservation Advisory Board—Department of Agriculture, the Massachusetts Conservation Council, and the Coastal Wetland Action Committee. In 1972, Morgan was one of three representatives of the United States at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.

SVT full time[edit]

After Morgan's retirement from Mass Audubon in 1980, he was chosen a Fellow of Saybrook College at Yale University. In 1981, he turned his attention full-time to SVT as its first Executive Director. He expanded the SVT membership base, hired a staff, and supervised the acquisition of significant amounts of open space throughout the Sudbury River watershed while continuing his lecturing, consulting, and writing until his death.

Morgan died at the Lahey Clinic in 1990 from prostate cancer a few months prior to his planned retirement in August. He is buried at the Old North Cemetery in Wayland.

Morgan is remembered annually by SVT when it gives the Morgan Volunteer Award to a volunteer who has distinguished him or herself on behalf of SVT. The marsh wren on cattail theme of the SVT logo finds further expression in this Award which is shown in the photograph on the right above the old SVT logo. The old SVT logo, shown here below the Morgan Volunteer Award, is no longer in general use at SVT but is one that Morgan would have known intimately. The logo uniquely illustrates, beyond the power of mere words, the essential vision that Morgan established for the organization he founded.

Honors and awards[edit]


  • Ludlow Griscom, Letter of Recommendation to the Director of Admissions, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, December 3, 1942.
  • Atkins, Chester G., Tribute to Allen H. Morgan, United States House of Representatives, 1990.
  • Sudbury Valley Trustees, Spring Newsletter, May, 1990.
  • Obituary, The Boston Globe, May 15, 1990.
  • Obituary, The New York Times, May 15, 1990.
  • Anderson, Robert President of Sudbury Valley Trustees, "In Memory of Allen Morgan," Eulogy delivered at the First Parish Church in Wayland, Massachusetts, May 17, 1990, (Insert in the Sudbury Valley Trustees Spring Newsletter, May, 1990).
  • Adams, Thomas Boylston "The man who made Sudbury Valley his monument," The Boston Globe, May 26, 1990.
  • McAdow, Ron "Recalling a conversation with Allen Morgan," Wayland Town Crier, June 7, 1990.
  • Weinberg, Judith "In Person Allen H. Morgan, Executive Director, Sudbury Valley Trustees," Metrowest News Weekly, June 9, 1989.
  • Biographical Sketch, The Massachusetts Historical Society Library, Allen H. Morgan Papers, 1923-1990.

External links[edit]