Rock enthusiast

Blandford Nature Center founder was a hidden gem.
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Many of Mary Jane’s papers were placed in the archives at the Grand Rapids Public Library, including notes, photographs, scrapbooks and a sampling of her slide collection. You can also learn more about her in her memoir, “Rock On, Lady…” Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library
Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library

It’s possible that there isn’t anyone who loves rocks more than Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray did. Dockeray (1927-2020) was widely known and loved as a science educator and founder of Blandford Nature Center. She had a deep love for nature and wildlife, and especially geology. She was hooked when, at the age of 6, she learned that every rock has a name. She studied geology for the rest of her life, and her rock collection was both large and well cataloged.

Dockeray was a talented public speaker and was particularly good at translating science into everyday language. Over the seven decades of her career, she shared her love for geology and nature with countless people. (In just one year she gave 587 presentations to over 40,000 kids in Grand Rapids Public Schools.) Dockeray preached a message of conservation, encouraging people to see, appreciate and care for the natural world around them. It didn’t ever feel like preaching, though. People said that she made nature come alive — that they truly enjoyed listening to her. Dockeray’s legacy lives on through Blandford and through all the kids and adults she inspired.

This story can be found in the April 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox each month, subscribe here

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