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Nora Cullinen

John Erskine: Creating a Lasting Legacy

John Erskine (1920-2019) was the son of one of Greenbelt Alliance’s founders, Dorothy Erskine. Dorothy was a progenitor of “smart growth environmentalism” long before that term even existed. She truly understood, well ahead of many others, that saving open space and farmland requires redirecting growth into existing cities. With a mother like Dorothy, it made sense that John took a natural liking to the outdoors. From early childhood with his parents, John explored the Sierras, and in later years enjoyed backpacking—developing an intimate knowledge of the southern Sierra. As a fourth-generation San Franciscan he understood the importance of having access to nature while still being able to live within thriving communities and city centers.

Dorothy passed on her knowledge to John who served on the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Alliance from 1985 through 1997. In 1993, John nominated Greenbelt Alliance for the Helen Crocker Russell Award, which was made to nonprofit organizations that improved the quality of life in the Bay Area through programs in the arts, humanities, recreation, or environmental protection. Greenbelt Alliance received the award that year!

John was a renowned doctor, who made groundbreaking contributions in the vascular surgery field. His leadership in the medical field transferred over to his dedication to helping shape the amazing places of the Bay Area and protect the region’s open spaces. And his legacy has lived on beyond his lifetime with the planned gift he left to Greenbelt Alliance in his will to support our vital work. 

As we embark on our new vision for the future of the Bay Area, Dorothy and John’s legacy lives on through our mission. Gifts like these allow Greenbelt Alliance to grow upon its 65-years of success throughout the region and will be invested in our public policy and conservation efforts both today and for years to come.

Interested in leaving your legacy like John? Learn more about our Planned Giving program here.

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