Ranger Rick Magazine Honors Executive Editor Bob Dunne for his Decades of Dedication to Inspiring Young Readers

Last month, the National Wildlife Federation and its supporters lost a dear friend. Robert L. Dunne, former executive editor of Ranger Rick magazine, died at the age of 89 on September 17, 2019, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Bob was born on December 20, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design (1958) and New York University (1960), and after a number of years working for a New York advertising agency, Bob joined the National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick magazine team in 1967 — the same year that the first issue of Ranger Rick was published. He retired in 1994 after working as the magazine’s executive editor for almost three decades.

In 1966, the National Wildlife Federation’s board approved the creation of a monthly magazine for children with the wise and friendly Ranger Rick Raccoon — already the hero of a series of kids’ books published by NWF — as its mascot. The mission of the new publication, which was then called Ranger Rick’s Nature Magazine, was to educate children about the natural world and inspire an appreciation of it. Bob had always loved nature and wanted to help conserve it. So, when he first learned of the new magazine, he was determined to become part of the staff.

Bob and his wife, Karoline. Photo courtesy of Wayne Sentman, Oceanic Society

“Bob wasn’t to be denied,” said Gerry Bishop, who joined the staff in 1972 and eventually went on to become the magazine’s editor. “Bob convinced the founding editor that she should take time out of her Christmas vacation in 1966 to interview him, and he went home with a job in hand.”

Bob’s talents in design, photography and advertising enabled him to bring a dynamic visual style to the magazine that contributed greatly to its immediate success. “The magazine was initially headed in a more literary, pedagogical direction,” Bishop said. “But Bob knew the limited appeal of such an approach and fought hard for his own vision of the magazine. Good thing he prevailed.”

“Because of his connections in New York, some of the top children’s book illustrators, including Arnold Lobel, Jerry Pinckney, and Ted Lewin, worked at lower fees to support the mission of the magazine,” said Donna Miller, who helped Bob design the pages of Ranger Rick for many years.

 “Bob was a perfectionist,” Miller added, “striving to make every page as interesting as possible. That attention to detail and constant effort to improve the product inspired me when I took over as art director.”

 Bob’s strong commitment to making the magazine as visually appealing as possible continued throughout his career. But equally important was Bob’s appreciation of the crucial role that photographers and illustrators played in the ongoing success of the magazine. Through Bob’s mentoring and encouragement, many inexperienced but talented photographers went on to noteworthy careers — very often coming to Bob with their best work for publication in Ranger Rick.

Ranger Rick throughout the years.

Bob also had a passion for modern design and viewed the world in a colorful and lively manner. He was an accomplished wildlife photographer and in 2011, received a lifetime achievement award from the North American Nature Photography Association for his immense impact on the nature photography industry. Once he retired, Bob began creating charming, contemporary ceramics. The elegant visual qualities he brought to the pages of Ranger Rick could be seen in the clean lines and shapes of his pottery.

Bob and his wife Karoline.
Photo courtesy of Wayne Sentman, Oceanic Society

Bob also had a knack for gardening. Native plants flourished in his gardens. Claire Miller, former managing editor of Ranger Rick, fondly recalls that “he often befriended neighbor kids and helped them appreciate nature, wildlife, gardening and caring for the environment. He especially enjoyed visiting schools to talk about wildlife and the magazine, while wearing the Ranger Rick costume.”

Bob is survived by his beloved wife of 46 years, Karoline. In addition to a deep love for one another they shared a fondness for movies, plays, New York City and lifelong friends. 

Donations in memory of Bob can be made to the Central Park Conservancy or the National Wildlife Federation.

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