My Life with a Raccoon
Please join us in wishing a very happy retirement to Donna Miller, NWF’s art director, who worked at Ranger Rick magazine for 40 years! We thought you’d enjoy reading more about her amazing career. Donna wrote the following in 2006 for Preserve America, and we could think of no better tribute than to showcase her love for the publication she served for so long.
Preserving America’s Wild Places for Our Children
By Donna Miller, Senior Design Director
In January of 1967 Trudy and Bob Farrand, former Curtis Publishing company executives, were asked by the National Wildlife Federation to start a new magazine for children. I was just finishing a degree in illustration at the Moore College of Art and was asked to interview for an art assistant position for the magazine, known then as Ranger Rick Nature Magazine. Three of us interviewed and I got the job.
I moved from my childhood home in the countryside outside Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and began my career in publishing. It is appropriate that I work on a nature magazine as my childhood home was on Swamp Road. There were no computers in those days, and the production of a magazine was a tedious process. My job was to hand-render, with felt markers, all the photographs and illustrations for each issue. I also helped cut and paste the type in place and aligned it with a T-square and angle. Believe it or not, I loved my job.
The environment movement was hot, and the magazine was well-established with 300,000 subscribers by the first Earth Day in 1970. It was about then that my employers moved me to what they felt was a more suitable job – working on a magazine for the Campfire Girls. That publication folded after two years, and I picked up a job designing a series of nature books for the National Wildlife Federation. After freelancing for a few years, including writing a children’s craft book entitled Egg Carton Critters, I was offered the position of Art Director of Ranger Rick.
I moved to the Nation’s Capitol and Dupont Circle and joined my old friend Ranger Rick once again at the headquarters of the National Wildlife Federation. For the past thirty years, a good portion of my life has been devoted to teaching children about wildlife and the environmental problems we face today. Through the use of beautiful photography and top quality design and illustration, I have tried to inspire and to give our young readers an appreciation of the natural world. It has been a very satisfying journey. Along the way I’ve learned so much that, to many people, I’m known as the raccoon, Ranger Rick. I’ve met and worked with many talented people, all of whom have helped make the magazine what it is today.
The production of the magazine is much easier today with the help of computers and digital presses, but our message and mission remain the same. The demands for open land and environmental problems caused by man continue to be a problem for wildlife and for all of us. We take our job of educating and inspiring generations to come quite seriously. They will inherit the remaining wild places in America and their values and actions will determine their future.
Whenever my husband and I travel to national parks and nature centers, we ask the young people working there if they read Ranger Rick as a child. Almost every answer is a warm, enthusiastic “YES!” It is very satisfying to know that in some way my years of work have helped inspire others to care about wildlife and the affect man has on our world. I hope Ranger Rick will continue for many more years and will be successful in getting America’s children out-of-doors again, away from TV and computers. Only then will they discover the peaceful, quiet gift only nature can bring.
Help us say “Thanks”
Do you have fond memories of Ranger Rick magazine, or do your kids love their subscriptions today? Join us in thanking Donna for her tireless efforts to spread the conservation message to America’s children by commenting below.
And of course, we know Donna would love for you to continue spreading the magic of Ranger Rick by sharing it with a special young person today. Learn more about subscribing to Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. >>