Humboldt State University

Works and Spirit of Legendary Redwood Activists Preserved in Library Collection

Lucille Vinyard, left, and Susie Van Kirk.

Lucille Vinyard and Susie Van Kirk worked tirelessly during the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. And through their activism, they helped establish and expand Redwood National Park to protect ancient redwood forests.

Lucille, known as the “mother of Redwood National Park,” and Susie embodied environmental stewardship and social justice, the very same values at the core of the HSU community. Now, with the help of donors, the HSU Library is establishing the Van Kirk & Vinyard Research Collection featuring the works of these two legendary Humboldt women.

Lucille was a courageous voice in environmental conservation. A founding member of North Group of Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, she led the fight to protect numerous wilderness areas in northern California.

Susie, in addition to her environmental advocacy, was also renowned for her research on local Native American genealogies, Humboldt history, and local architecture. Susie was also a compassionate advocate for the homeless in the last 20 years of her life. Now Susie and Lucille’s legacy will be available to future researchers and historians.

The establishment of the Van Kirk & Vinyard Collection is being made possible by a unique collaboration between donors, Library staff and faculty, and student interns.

Recognizing the historical significance of Lucille’s works, Susie made a gift to the Library to hire student interns to process and archive Lucille’s collection of journals, notes, articles, and photographs related to her environmental activism.

When Lucille, 97, and Susie, 77, passed away in December 2015, HSU alumnus and Emeritus Mathematics Professor Rob Van Kirk picked up where his mother left off and provided funding to process Susie’s vast collection of historical and cultural research alongside Lucille’s collection.

The funding for Lucille’s collection is having an immediate impact on HSU students. In addition to benefiting from the financial help paid internships provide, students are getting hands-on experience archiving the collection and making it available in a digital format for the wider community of academic researchers, students, and environmentalists.

Both women had close connections to Humboldt State University. Lucille and Susie were married to HSU professors and they worked with many dedicated student activists from HSU during the hard-fought battles to protect local wilderness areas. The work done by these women to establish the Redwood National Park wasn’t just a gift to northern California—it was a gift to the world. Without the Van Kirk & Vinyard Collection, a major chunk of conservation history would be missing.

Humboldt State has a rich history of social and environmental activism and Lucille and Susie are a major part of that narrative. Their spirit lives on in the HSU community, and through every student who takes the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility. Thanks to the work of HSU students with donor support, The Van Kirk & Vinyard Collection will continue to inspire future environmental activists, researchers, and historians.

You can help ensure this valuable legacy is preserved for future generations by supporting the Van Kirk & Vinyard Trust, which will be used to build and maintain the physical and digital exhibits documenting the amazing work of these women. If you have questions about supporting HSU, feel free to contact the Office of Philanthropy at giving@humboldt.edu or (707) 826-5200.