Tom Hinckley no doubt kept his much younger graduate students challenged to keep up as he climbed to over 7000′ on Snowshoe Mountain in the North Cascades. It was there he chose to conduct research on the effects of environmental stress on three species of native trees.
Hinckley needed that energy as he served both as Director for the UW Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture (1998-2004), and as researcher, teacher and mentor at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, where he is now emeritus professor.
“I first came to Seattle in March 1964 to ski in the Cascades, and I must have gotten hooked,” he says, “because I returned two years later to attend graduate school.”
Hinckley received a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College in Minnesota (1966) and his PhD in Forest Ecophysiology from the UW in 1971. Despite his science focus, he reports that his favorite course in college was actually American History because “it was taught extraordinarily well.”
After time spent teaching in Missouri, Hinckley returned to the University of Washington in January 1980 to join the faculty. Many of his colleagues, with whom he co-taught and worked on joint research projects, were the initial faculty cohort at UW-Botanic Gardens (James Clark, Barb Smit-Spinks, Deane Wang, Kern Ewing).
With Kern Ewing and others he was involved in launching the Restoration Ecology Network (UW-REN). UW-REN is now a regional center for the study of ecological restoration and conservation, creating new undergraduate research and curricula, much of it taking place at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
“Now that I am retired, I am a regular visitor to the Soest Garden– my favorite place to walk and take in nature the the Center,” he says, “and I am also active in helping find financial resources to maintain and grow the garden.”
Hinckley is still an avid skier, hiker and photographer. And when asked about his favorite plant, he had a clear preference:
“Abies amabilis,” he clamoured. This tree, also called Pacific silver fir or “lovely” fir because of the softly silver undersides on the needles and gorgeous purple-hued cones that stand upright on the branches. Hinckley loves the looks of this tree, its mountain habitat and, “the fact that it got me my first job teaching at the University of Missouri.”