Life Lists of One Kind or Another | A Tribute to Dr. Dick Beidleman

ACES Staff

September 9, 2014

Life Lists of One Kind or Another | A Tribute to Dr. Dick Beidleman

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Dr. Richard Beidleman.  Dick, as we all knew him by, taught at ACES for about three decades, living at the Hodgson Professor House at Hallam Lake during the weeks he was teaching. With the same ease as he made life lists of birds, he also made a Professor House list for me every summer. It was basically a list of things that needed my attention and I believe Dick made such lists most everywhere he went – he just cared that much about the places where he worked and about the natural world he inhabited.

Dick at Hallam Lake Dick and his wife Linda at the Professor House

I met Dick in 2004, my first summer at ACES – he was returning as a 20-some-year visiting professor, and I was going into my first summer as a Naturalist Field School Coordinator. Dick came to teach the Rocky Mountain Birds and Plants classes, which he had been teaching at ACES since the beginning of our Naturalist Field School in the early 80s, and I was there to help make it all happen. It pretty much went like this (always a letter from Linda – shortened version below):
“Dick and I are arriving on June 20. The bird class will be June 22-25 and the plant class will be June 28-29. We will be there through 4th of July leaving shortly after and going straight to Rocky Mountain National Park.”

Most of our Naturalist Field School summers (from 1980-2010) started with Dick and Linda teaching the early field courses for eager birders and plant enthusiasts who enjoyed and counted on this kick-off to the summer. In my time at ACES, Linda’s letter always ended with: “This will be our last summer teaching at ACES.” After 6 years of saying it, their last field courses were taught in 2010.

After that summer we had people asking about Dick and especially his birding classes. In response, we worked hard to develop a consistent ACES birding program that matched Dick’s in passion and quality. In the last few years we have found our stride with an established year-round birding program called ACES Bird Club, inspired by Dick and lead by Rebecca Weiss, an ACES Naturalist and Dick’s former student. Birders of all ages and ability come to ACES for weekly birding outings in the summer and monthly outings throughout the rest of the year. We hope Dick would have been proud of our efforts.

Looking back at Dick’s time at ACES one can’t help but recognize all of the things he did:
–    Dick started teaching at ACES in the early years of our Summer Field Seminars (now knowns as the Naturalist Field School) in the 1980s with Betty Willard and Stuart Mace.
–    After our Naturalist Field School (NFS) was formally established, Dick’s week-long birding and plant classes became signature NFS courses.
–    Dick taught more than 40 courses over 3 decades at ACES.
–    Dick’s humor was a part of every class he taught!
–    Dick inspired many people to learn about and care for the natural world.
–    Dick turned beginner birders into life-long enthusiasts and inspired passion in avid bird watchers.
–    Dick inspired many bird-nerds to start “life lists” of species they’ve identified.
–    Dick started various side projects at ACES such as arranging old files and brochures into more organized historical overviews of ACES programs.
–    Dick made helpful lists of things to do to improve, well, everything!

 Dick leading a birding class for ACES Naturalist Field School.

I learned a lot of things from Dick in our time together. That Professor House list, for example, was never going to disappear. For as diligently as I worked on fixing things from the previous year, Dick was always going to put new things on the list for next year… I guess that’s called life-long learning, and Dick was a student and a teacher of it. Dick’s was a life list well lived. We will miss him but his legacy lives on at ACES.

~ Anda Rojs Smalls, Naturalist Field School Director

Here is some important information from Dick’s daughter Carol – everyone is invited to his “Celebration of Life”:
As was Dick’s wish, there will be no funeral service.  Instead, a “Celebration of Life” ceremony will be held on Sunday, October 12, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. at Shove Chapel at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  His ashes are to be scattered.  Condolences can be sent c/o Carol Beidleman,  Our gratitude to Hospice of the Central Coast for their caring services at the end of Dick’s life.  
In keeping with his life dedicated to philanthropy—giving generously of his time, knowledge and personal resources, we ask that any gifts in his memory be made to the “Dr. Richard G. Beidleman Scholarship for Students of Biology” at Colorado College.  Gifts can be made by check to the Development Office, Colorado College, P.O. Box 1117, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80901-9897; online at (designate gift as a tribute); or by phone at 1-800-782-6306 (select option 3).

Click here to read Dick’s full obituary.

Below are some thoughts from Dick’s former ACES students:

As one of the many Aspenite’s who was fortunate to take Dr. Beidleman’s birding class at ACES several times, I can still hear him explaining field markings of certain high altitude birds. And I will think of Dick when I bird at his favorite birding locations here in our valley. Upon completion of his class, you were rewarded with a choice of one of the many birding magazines he had saved from years past.  He was always “sharing the knowledge” on birds and plants.
My best to Linda and the Beidleman family.  
Liz Bokram, Aspen, CO

I started birding with Dick and Linda Beidleman in the early 90’s in Aspen with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. And then they pretty much couldn’t get rid of me! The reason I kept coming back was as much for the camaraderie as it was for the birding knowledge. No one could tell a story as well as Dr. Beidleman. Also, he paid me for all nests we could find belonging to the breeding birds. Sometimes I got a penny, sometimes I got a dime! Once I got a quarter–Linda didn’t like that. 🙂 Dick Beidleman was an absolute treasure trove of birding knowledge. I am blessed to have known him. My most heartfelt condolences go to his loved ones.
Susan Foster, Rockport, Texas/Aspen

Dr. Beidleman was a large part of my impression of ACES when I was an intern in 1993. The bird and botany courses he taught along with Linda were as enjoyable as they were singular educational experiences, invaluable and enriching to professionals and enthusiasts alike.  As a pillar of the Naturalist Field School, his teaching and involvement contributed greatly to ACES’ credibility as an educational center.  The birds and flowers will continue to remind us of his great knowledge and love of sharing the natural world with all of his students.
Rebecca Weiss, Aspen, CO

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