The Beginning of Woodlawn Nature Center

Woodlawn Nature Center Ground Breaking - Circa. 1965

Woodlawn Nature Center Ground Breaking – Circa. 1965

Dorothy Greenleaf Boynton was described as a “practical idealist” by those who knew her.  One of the many ways this powerful, soft-spoken woman impacted the Elkhart community was in founding, financing and leading the Woodlawn Nature Council and, through it, establishing Woodlawn Nature Center a half a century ago.

Thanks to Mrs. Boynton’s enthusiasm, energy, vision and love for nature, along with the efforts of many volunteers since, we enjoy the wonderful experience and opportunity that is Woodlawn Nature Center.

Dorothy Greenleaf Boynton

Mrs. Boynton was born in Ohio in 1902.  She moved to Elkhart as a teenager when her father, Carl Dimond Greenleaf, lead a group of investors who bought Colonel Conn’s holdings.  He became president of C.G. Conn and a few months later in partnership with Andrew Hubble Beardsley also bought the The Truth publishing company from the finanicially distressed Colonel Conn.

At a time when most women did not attend college, the serious-minded Miss Boynton earned a degree in business and economics from the University of Chicago.

She applied her knowledge and her passion to the things that she believed in.  She led the Elkhart County Welfare Board, the Indiana State Conference on Social Work, the Elkhart Parent Teachers Association Council, the Booker T. Washington Center, the Elkhart and Indiana AAUW, and the Elkhart League of Women Voters.

Together with her husband Theodore Charles Boynton, she became a founding member of the First Unitarian Church of South Bend and in 1959 she assembled a group of people in Elkhart to form the Unified Unitarian Fellowship of Elkhart which was officially founded in 1961.  She donated three lots for the church building and provided leadership during the church’s early years, serving as its president from 1964 to 1966.

She lived a life devoted to things that matter most; spirituality, nature, and family. We can imagine that the Boynton family, with their two children Richard and Susan, enjoyed nature in the very same 10 acres of woods that Dorothy Greenleaf Boynton gifted to the people of the City of Elkhart.

Dorothy Greenleaf Boynton (1902-1985)