EASTON — When you listen to Richard and Beverly Tilghman, the Horn Point Lab’s (HPL) 2021 Chesapeake Champions, the words that readily come to mind to describe them and their intense interest in our community and environment are stewardship, legacy and obligation.
They want to improve the health and riches of the Chesapeake Bay. They understand that an effective way to do that is to ensure that marine science provides objective data for public officials on the local, state and federal levels to make decisions that change the course of harmful pollution in the Bay and its tributaries.
“We want to be part of the solution and good stewards of the land. We (and his ancestors) didn’t chop down trees. They’re still here,” Richard said.
He added, ”We need more environmental scientists. When we invited friends to our home to meet with young HPL graduate students, our guests could understand the importance of their science, ask questions and learn about the lab’s work.”
The key to understanding what motivates the Tilghmans to support graduate research at HPL in Cambridge, is to realize that their ownership of the historic Wye House, considered an Eastern Shore gem and a National Historic Trust property, is rooted in preserving and upgrading 1,250 acres imbued with the founding of Maryland.
It is no small task. It calls for being a responsible caretaker, a vigilant steward of an invaluable heritage of land, while ensuring a commitment to environmental sensitivity in the form of living shorelines, waterfront buffers and mature trees. Parts of the Wye House property were among the first easements established when the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was founded 31 years ago.
Beverly said, “We don’t want the beauty and value of Wye House to disappear under our watch. We want to instill in others, such as our daughter Elizabeth and our niece and nephew (who live on the property), appreciation for education, the land and environment.
“We want to pass along that sensitivity, to understand the history of Wye House, not erase it.”
In any conversation with the Tilghmans about their volunteer and philanthropic interests, one constant subject stands out: education. When the Tilghmans lived in Baltimore, both became board members at independent schools and consequently became keenly aware of the dire need for financial assistance for youth who otherwise could not have afforded expensive secondary school educations.
The Tilghmans took advantage of opportunities to set up named scholarships. It solidified their commitment to education. Beverly spoke proudly of her involvement in raising money for financial aid and then being part of a process to distribute grants to young women eager to enroll at two independent schools with which she was involved.
When they moved to Wye House in 2005 after Richard retired as a partner at DLA Piper, they and Mary Tilghman, Richard’s mother, welcomed school groups to learn about the enslaved Frederick Douglass and the Wye House Plantation. The Tilghmans gladly welcome students to what many consider a small museum visited by a few founding fathers in the 17th century.
Not too many years ago, archaeological digs by the University of Maryland, welcomed wholeheartedly by Mary Tilghman, produced discoveries about the enslaved, including their spiritual lives, diet and culture. Research into Wye House has produced five Ph.D. theses, according to Richard.
Mike Roman, HPL director, said, “Richard and Beverly are extraordinary members of the Mid-Shore. Their first impulse is to do more for our community. They care little about credit. Their environmental stewardship of Wye House property and their support of graduate education in marine science are great achievements. HPL is most thankful for their continued interest and support.”
The Tilghman’s are the eighth recipients of the Chesapeake Champions Award, created by Horn Point Lab to honor those who have devoted their energies and enterprises to environmental betterment in the Mid-Shore. They join Amy Haines, Chip Akridge, Albert Pritchett, Jordan and Alice Lloyd, Jim Brighton, Jerry Harris and the Hutchinson Brothers.
Richard said,” When we were asked to be Chesapeake Champions, we were clear that we don’t seek recognition. We agreed to accept the award if it would help HPL by raising money for graduate student research.”
Co-chairs for this year’s event are Ellen and Dick Bodorff and Meta and Billy Boyd. They have generously funded the cost of the event enabling 100% of the proceeds from the celebration to go toward supporting the research and education of HPL’s students.
The Chesapeake Champion event will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, outside in the Gold Garden at the Tidewater Inn, Easton.