Appalachian Laboratory presents annual Johnson Award to Dr. Charles Hager

April 19, 2017

In honor of outstanding contributions in Western Maryland, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory has honored Dr. Chuck Hager as recipient of its 2017 Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award. For 17 years, Dr. Hager voluntarily organized an annual weeklong, overnight environmental camp, held at the Maryland Ornithological Society’s 162-acre Carey Run site, where an average of 20 area children each year are introduced to the many marvels of western Maryland.

"We are delighted to recognize Dr. Chuck Hager for his lifelong contribution to introducing and teaching young people in Western Maryland about nature and the world around us," said Eric Davidson, director of the Appalachian Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Chuck's 'bird camp' at Carey Run has touched dozens of kids' lives over the years, including many who are now adults, with a deeper understanding of the value of the environment for our quality of life."

Dr. Hager was given the award at a special ceremony at the Appalachian Laboratory on Thursday, April 13.

Chuck's 'bird camp' at Carey Run has touched dozens of kids' lives over the years, including many who are now adults, with a deeper understanding of the value of the environment for our quality of life.

Eric Davidson
Appalachian Laboratory director

Dr. Hager became active in the Boy Scouts as a way to introduce children to nature; however, he wanted to do more to educate them and to give them the type of nature camp experience he had as a child. He felt that if children did not know much about their environment, they would not help restore or save it. If they touched it, held it, observed it, studied it, smelled it, tasted it, he said at the award ceremony, it would become a part of them and they would serve as better stewards of that environment. He concluded that the only way to seriously inspire a love of nature was to immerse youth in it, but it had to be fun, it had to be a part of their social life, and it had to be something they wanted to do.

Dr. Hager found a way to inspire that love of nature through the camp at Carey Run. In organizing the camp, he tapped into the local pool of talent, knowledge, and commitment in western Maryland to gain speakers and presenters for the campers. He led bird walks, conducted workshops on local flora and fauna, and taught identification methods to help campers determine species on their own, allowing them to continue to learn about the world around them when their week at camp had ended.  

In addition to organizing the annual camp, Dr. Hager has spent countless hours maintaining Carey Run, preserving the sanctuary and ensuring it remains available as an educational resource for the children of today and tomorrow. 

Dr. Hager graduated from Beall High School, Frostburg State University, and West Virginia University School of Dentistry. He has practiced dentistry for the past 35 years, where he provides total care for his patients by utilizing all phases of dentistry.

The award honors the memory of Richard A. Johnson, a well-known orthopedic surgeon in the Allegany County area. He passed away in 1990, leaving a legacy of a caring and dedicated physician, family man, and naturalist. The Appalachian Laboratory honors his memory through its promotion of environmental education in Western Maryland and the people who excel in its practice.

The Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award provides $2,000 to support further environmental education activities. The endowment supporting the award was made possible through the generous support of AES Warrior Run, Alliance Resource Partners (Mettiki Coal), First Energy, Verso Corporation, and numerous other donors over the past decade. Generous sponsors of this year's program include AES Warrior Run, Disney Co., Scarpelli Funeral Home, P.A., Allegany College of Maryland, Beechwood Coal, Ritchie Trucking and Excavating, and numerous friends.

Recent recipients of the Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award include the Marcellus Shale Stream Monitoring Coalition (2016), Janice Keene (2015), Tom Mathews (2014), and the Forestry Technology Program at Allegany College of Maryland (2013).

Learn more about the Johnson Award.