Defiance College, Diehl Family enter Thoreau Sanctuary Partnership

September 6, 2012


DEFIANCE, Ohio – The Diehl Family of Defiance and Defiance College have entered into an innovative arrangement that will turn over to the College management responsibility for the 250-acre Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary wildlife preserve.

 Under this arrangement, Defiance College students studying restoration ecology and environmental studies will, under the supervision of Defiance College faculty, manage the preserve as a living laboratory, using it to further their research and also working to preserve and restore its natural habitat. This arrangement will also enable expanded educational programming both for the College and the community.

An announcement from the Diehl Family Foundation states: “Bill and Helen Diehl had a long-term relationship with Defiance College and supported many of their programs over the years. They long envisioned a partnership between Defiance College and Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary.”

The announcement continues: “Bill Diehl hoped this land, where he lived for over 60 years, would be restored and preserved to natural prairies and habitats for indigenous animals. He loved nature and wanted a place where citizens of Defiance County and Defiance College students could learn and enjoy nature. We as his family are pleased to enter into this partnership with the college on behalf of Bill and Helen Diehl.”

DC president Mark Gordon noted, “We are thrilled by the generosity of the Diehl family and moved by the trust they have placed in Defiance College as stewards of this beautiful and important nature preserve. Thanks to the Diehl family’s generosity, Defiance College students will be able to take advantage of unique hands-on opportunities to run and manage a wildlife sanctuary.”

  Gordon added, “We at Defiance College are committed to giving our students real-world experiences that deepen their understanding and also enable them to stand out in the job market and when applying to graduate schools. This is a perfect example of how a Defiance College education can give our students advantages in the marketplace after graduating from college, while also enriching their college experience.”

Because of the vision and foresight of the late Bill and Helen Diehl, the Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1989 on 250 acres of farmland north of Defiance. The sanctuary has served, since that time, as a biological research station for Defiance College’s restoration ecology and environmental studies programs.  Access to the sanctuary has allowed DC students to plant and study trees, reintroduce wetland and prairie areas, conduct soil and water studies and engage in research on reintroduction of the pheasant and quail population.

With Defiance College now assuming full management of this area, Defiance College students will enjoy a unique educational platform to learn firsthand the methods of preserving, enhancing, and conserving habitats and restoring ecological systems.

Much of the groundwork in the early years of the sanctuary was accomplished by professor emeritus David Reed. Now, Dr. Doug Kane, assistant professor of biology, directs the programming at Thoreau.  He plans to develop a stronger interactive relationship with area teachers to help develop an expanded network for instructional and research purposes with elementary, junior and senior high school students.

"Defiance College's students and the entire community are lucky to have such a large nature preserve with a variety of habitats so close by,” said Kane. “Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary's proximity to both the college and community will allow for a variety of educational, research, and community outreach activities.  

“I am grateful that the Diehl Family Foundation has decided to honor the legacy of William and Helen Diehl by partnering with Defiance College in this unique endeavor. I also thank Professor Dave Reed and his students who worked with the Diehls to restore and construct the habitats now found at the Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary."

Bill Diehl was president of Defiance Milk Products and Diehl Inc. for 40 years and was involved with the Diehl family business for 75 years. He was a supporter of many local and international humanitarian causes and organizations. Diehl was recognized by Defiance College with an honorary doctorate of humane letters and received the college’s highest honor, the Pilgrim Medal. He died in 2009, and Helen Diehl, who was also active in many local organizations, died in 2007.

Defiance College, chartered in 1850, is an independent, liberal arts institution in Northwest Ohio offering more than 40 undergraduate programs of study as well as graduate programs in education and business. Defiance College has received national recognition for its educational experience of service and engagement. The college website is