Celebrating the Vibrant Life of Sid Cullipher

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” – Carl Jung

Sid Cullipher, the Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance from 2007 to 2009 passed away on Saturday afternoon after being diagnosed less than two weeks ago with cancer. The hearts and souls of all of us here at Dogwood go out to Sid’s family. He was a truly amazing individual and we are honored to have gotten to know Sid well during his tenure at Dogwood. We are filled equally with sadness for his departure as well as gratitude for his presence in our lives, for he blessed our organization with some transformative gifts.

Like many of us here at Dogwood Alliance, Sid made a life out of his love for nature. In addition to being a river guide, Sid also worked for Outward Bound. He was the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called Journey into Wholeness, which focused on teaching the psychology of Carl Jung, exploring the meaning of life and what it means to live in full relationship with all creation. He got his Master’s Degree from New Mexico University in Resource Economics and facilitated a national dialogue on climate while working at the Keystone Center for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. He was a perfect fit for Dogwood in 2007 when we began to elevate the importance of forest protection in the context of global climate change and as we began to build new partnerships with big corporations and Southern landowners to develop new, paradigm-shifting markets that value the protection rather than the destruction of our forests. This video shows Sid speaking passionately and compellingly about the importance of our forests.

He was intellectually brilliant. Always reading, always learning. And while he was intensively creative, articulate, charismatic and dynamic, he was also very kind and thoughtful, sweet and gentle. He was strong-willed but not egotistical. From Dogwood members and activists to the most politically-savvy funders to the top executives of the largest corporations in the world, Sid gained the trust and respect of many. He was genuine and authentic.

On a personal level, his calm presence and support helped me work through intensely challenging discussions as we negotiated what would become an historic agreement with Georgia Pacific that increased protection for over 90 million acres of Southern forests. He also helped establish the partnerships and create the vision for the Carbon Canopy Project. His passion for this project helped elevate it as a key strategy for the organization. He was with us when we launched The Packaging Campaign. He encouraged new ideas to surface, and we released our first report on bioenergy “Don’t Log the Forest for the Fuel.” He was a skilled ambassador, drumming up new financial support for Southern forests that allowed our work to expand. By the time he left Dogwood in 2009, we were not only well-prepared to weather the financial storm of the economic crisis, but well-positioned to leverage even bigger protection for Southern forests.

But beyond that, and even more importantly, he was fun, he was wild, he was cool, he was honest, he was transparent. He knew what matters most in this world and he embraced the many challenges of being Dogwood’s Executive Director with grace, adapting, flowing and even dancing around obstacles like a pure, clear, mountain river.

Having taken over the Executive Director position at Dogwood Alliance after Sid left, I have nothing but the deepest gratitude and respect for his profound presence in the evolution of our work to protect Southern forests. I am a much better Executive Director than I ever would have been if I did not have the opportunity to learn from him. We all learned big lessons from him. He was a true friend, an inspiring mentor and a helpful guide along the wild river of life.

Sid moved on from Dogwood, but his passion for nature continued to drive his life. About a year or so ago, he purchased Headwater’s Outfitters Outdoor Adventures, just outside of Brevard. This video of Sid in his element, talking about the French Broad River, makes all of us here at Dogwood Alliance feel honored to have had such a passionate and creative person as our Executive Director at such a pivotal time in the organization’s history.

Sid’s life was about accumulating meaning, not wealth. If you would like to support his family, please consider making a contribution to help with medical costs and college tuition for his children. The Dogwood office will be closed on Friday in honor of Sid. This weekend, Dogwood staff and board will plant a Dogwood tree in front of our office in downtown Asheville in celebration of the tremendous contribution he made to the efforts to protect the natural ecosystems of the South.

Farewell for now, dear Sid! We will miss your big hugs, your fire dancing, your handstands and your moonshine! But, your infinite light continues to guide our transformation, and your spirit will forever live among the blooming Dogwoods.[/vc_column_text][space height=”15″][vc_video link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0X4YR_qvx8&sns=em”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

6 Responses to “Celebrating the Vibrant Life of Sid Cullipher”

  1. Mark Sumner

    I am very saddened to hear of Sid’s death. He was one of the most colourful persons I have ever known ~ very much what we fondly call a “larrikin” here in Australia or, in Jungian terms, a “trickster”. Lux perpetua.

  2. Margie Smith

    Thank you Danna for such a loving tribute to our Sid. We cannot tell you how much he will be missed by us, his friends of 20 some odd years. And I know that he will be watching you guys plant that tree on Friday.

  3. Beautifully written, Danna. It was a wonderful experience to know and work with Sid for a time and to connect with his energy, passion, enthusiasm, wit and intelligence that lives on in the heart and soul of Dogwood Alliance. Looking forward to giving that tree a huge hug the next time I come to Asheville.

  4. Helen Powell-Busch

    you nailed it Danna! that was Sid. thanks for writing that so well for us who knew him, those who didn’t and for him.

  5. Joshua Martin

    This is a very moving and appropriate tribute to Sid. Thank you so much for such care in writing it Danna. Really feels like such a great loss, and like you say, such an honor to have had the chance to know Sid.


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