Jane Goodall. Photo by David S. Holloway.
Jane Goodall. Photo by David S. Holloway.

When I started working for Trinity University Press as a summer intern, the first thing I saw on the events calendar was that Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, was coming to town on Sept. 24 as part of the 2015-2016 DeCoursey Lecture Series. The event is free but ticketed.

Tickets will be available online at Ticketbud beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

UPDATE: Tickets have SOLD OUT and there will no longer be standby seats available.

If you were unable to obtain tickets: 500 overflow seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Stieren Theater on the Trinity campus, where attendees can view a live stream of the event. Those doors will open at 6:30 p.m. as well. You are welcome to return to Laurie Auditorium afterward to purchase a book and have it signed by Dr. Goodall. For those not attending on campus, the event will also be live streamed and archived on live.trinity.edu.

I went on to read the book the press published about her called “The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall that contains more than 100 testimonies of Goodall’s friends and colleagues. Reading about how many lives Goodall has personally touched and inspired, made me that much more excited to see her in person.

"The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall," by Dale Peterson.
“The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall,” by Dale Peterson.

Last year, as a part of my anthropology major at Trinity University, I took a course called Human Evolution where we studied various primates including chimpanzees and, of course, Dr. Goodall. Learning about Goodall for the first time in depth opened my eyes to her pioneering work and her unique approach to studying chimpanzees. Her story had a huge impact on me, it showed me that one woman can make a longstanding impact on the natural world.

It’s unreal that less than a year after studying her, she’ll be standing in Trinity’s auditorium inspiring my classmates and many others. What a treat for the San Antonio community to have a chance to see this woman in person.

Below is an excerpt from “The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall.” This is the testimony of close friend and Goodall biographer Dale Peterson – one of many by Goodall’s friends and colleagues highlighting her as a scientific pioneer, inspiring teacher, and advocate for animals. Peterson also wrote “The Moral Lives of Animals,” “Giraffe Reflections, Chimpanzee Travels: On and Off the Road in Africa” and “Visions of Caliban: On Chimpanzees and People,” which he co-authored with Goodall.

Dale Peterson. Courtesy photo.
Dale Peterson. Courtesy photo.

“Jane the Teacher,” by Dale Peterson:

I first met Jane in June 1989, at the home of Geza Teleki in suburban Washington, DC. Geza had once been a student at Jane’s research site in Africa, and I had earlier sought him out as a well-known chimp expert. I wanted to write a book about chimpanzees and conservation, and I had asked Geza if he would provide expert advice. He agreed to help, but then he surprised me by offering to introduce me to Jane Goodall. He said she might be interested in coauthoring such a book. I thought, Terrific!

When I met her, she seemed smaller and less dramatic than I had expected. She was quiet, in a thoughtful sort of way. Or was she just tired? Geza and I jointly advanced the idea of a coauthorship. She seemed reluctant, saying, “Wouldn’t it be just as good if I wrote an introduction to a book you wrote?”

“No,” I said, “it wouldn’t be the same.”

She said, “Let me think about it.”

We continued talking, and then, after several minutes passed, she said, “All right. I’ll do it.” It was characteristic of Jane, I later realized, to make quick decisions about people. Her quick decision about me was the start of a twenty-five-year relationship I’ve had with one of the world’s great primatologists and chimpanzee experts. That relationship would include, for me, the writing or editing of . . . how many books? I’m not sure. We coauthored that first book, but I also wrote or edited several others in which she had an important role, as subject or collaborator or muse.

My brother, who lived and worked in the area, often doubled as my chauffeur when I was in town. After that first meeting, my brother showed up at Geza’s house to give me a ride back to his place. Jane was on her way to the National Geographic offices just then, and my brother offered to drive her there, since we were headed in the same direction. On our way there, though, she started talking about suffering chickens, hens in battery cages, free-range eggs, and so on; and I remember looking over at my brother to exchange a furtive glance. I don’t know what he was thinking. I was thinking: Is this lady a little strange?

I was interested in conservation and primates, but chickens? Only gradually, over the next few months and then years, did I begin to absorb and appreciate more fully Jane’s lifelong sensitivity to animals and animal suffering. More immediately, though, this “strange lady” began to teach me other things. For starters, she taught me a good deal about how to write about animals: how to appreciate and express their potential for subjective experience, even when you don’t know exactly what it is. She clarified for me the logic of accepting animals as fellow creatures, ones deserving the respect conveyed by personal pronouns identifying him and her instead of it, who and whose rather than that or which— and so on. Animals are not things, and we should stop using language that implies they are.

She also taught me about wild chimpanzees: introducing me to those at Gombe and sending me off to find other chimp communities elsewhere in Africa, thereby giving me the opportunity to see for myself what chimps are like when they’re wild and free. It was during those travels in Africa that I also began to understand some of the powerful forces that are pushing all the great apes and most other primates toward extinction.

These forces include the bushmeat trade— the commercial hunting of chimps and gorillas and all other wild animals for meat. Thus, another part of my education for the book brought me, in places across the continent, face to face with baby or juvenile chimpanzees chained to trees and junked cars, hidden away and starving in tiny cages, or being cared for in people’s houses and in orphanages. Research for that first book with Jane also led me to find chimps outside Africa— behind the bars in biomedical laboratories, for instance, or under the control of Hollywood animal trainers.

After that coauthored book, I turned to a couple of other projects before returning in 1996 to Jane once more. This time, though, she served as both collaborator and subject. The meaning of subject should be clear enough:

I had decided to write her biography. She was a collaborator in the sense that she gave me free access to everything, including a lifetime’s worth of personal letters, roomfuls of filing cabinets bursting with documents and loose papers, a world filled with friends all ready to be interviewed, and family (mother, father, sister, aunt, son, niece, grandchildren, first husband) all grist for the tape recorder. Possibly the oddest thing I noticed, in my ten years biographicizing this one person, is that she never once asked to see what I was writing. When the typescript was finally done and ready for publication, I thought it would be a simple courtesy to let her have a look, and so she did read it at that point. She asked for a few corrections of factual errors. Nothing else. So what I concluded about Jane is that she is among the least controlling people I have ever met.

Jane has taught me so many things. But by taught, I really mean something more subtle and yet more effective than the word usually connotes. I’ve never had the impression that she was actually teaching me or instructing me about anything. No, she taught without teaching. She taught through example. She enabled discoveries to happen. She alerted one to possibilities. She altered an opinion through a few words thoughtfully expressed. And it has been through her quiet teaching that I came to think about animal suffering in broader terms. Her example was an important part of my becoming a vegetarian, and her influence and inspiration have helped keep me writing about animals and animal issues over the last quarter century.

*Featured/top image: Jane Goodall. Photo by David S. Holloway.

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Sarah Davis

Sarah Davis is a senior at Trinity University studying communications and anthropology.