Edward Phillips Connors

June 2, 1934 – July 26, 2022

Outdoorsman, athlete, coach, teacher, mentor, traveler, tour guide, environmentalist, gardener, art historian, musician and so much more, Edward P. Connors lived life with passionate enthusiasm and loved nothing more than sharing his sense of adventure with his family, students, friends, and colleagues. And thanks to his leadership in helping create Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness Area and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, he positively impacted the lives of an even wider circle.

Born and raised in Lake Forest, Illinois, he attended Fessenden School, Taft School, Yale University, and Harvard University. After teaching at the Harvey School, and Lake Forest Country Day, he moved with his equally adventurous wife, Hope, to Colorado in 1964 to teach at Denver Country Day School, Kent School for Girls, and Kent Denver School until 1993.

Not content simply to teach, he was always working to leave the world a better place for future generations. That desire resulted in what he felt was his greatest accomplishment: the 1975 designation by Congress of the Weminuche Wilderness Area in Southern Colorado. Edward, as a leader of the Colorado Open Space Council (COSC), worked with many others to help establish what is now the largest designated Wilderness in Colorado . His effort included testimony for a 1973 Senate hearing on “Colorado Wilderness Areas.”

While President at COSC, a consortium of 34 environmental and outdoor recreation organizations, internationally renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude recruited him to serve as their spokesperson on the environmental impact of their 1972 ground-breaking temporary installation “Valley Curtain” in Rifle Gap, Colorado. His environmental activism in the late 1960s and ’70s also included leading the Rocky Mountain Center on Environment (ROMCOE). In 1971 he was named Environmentalist of the Year by the Colorado Mountain Club.

Edward believed his other great achievement came in the 1980s when, as President of the Board of Trustees (1985-87 ) at the Denver Botanic Gardens, he formally advanced the idea of a “culture tax” to his counterparts at the Denver Zoo , Denver Art Museum and the then-Denver Natural History Museum. The ensuing collaboration and work of those organizations, as well as other groups that ultimately became part of the seven-county Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), helped secure voter authorization in 1988. Since then, the SCFD has generated more than a billion dollars in funding for arts and culture in the Denver metropolitan area.

Because of his passion for flowers and plants (probably initiated while he helped his mother establish the Victory Garden program in Chicago during World War II), and fascination with the history of gardening and landscape design, the Garden Club of America named him an Honorary Member-at-Large.

For more than 20 years Edward served on the advisory board of the Whitney Western Art Museum, a division of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West; and was later asked to serve on the board of trustees of the Center itself. During the long twice-annual drives to Cody, Wyoming, for board meetings, he always visited the black-footed ferret captive breeding program in Meeteetse to follow the progress of reintroducing populations of this presumed extinct mammal. He also would return to his favorite valley in Yellowstone National Park to systematically document for the National Park Service the decades-long natural reforestation after the 1988 fire.

His expansive curiosity was rooted in a fascination with history, particularly of art and world cultures, while the splendors and diversity of the natural world filled his imagination with wonder. Understanding the past, he pushed for a better future, hoping to provide young people with a healthier, more loving and accepting world in which to live. Sharing his classroom over the years with more than 2,400 young minds inspired him daily, and the successes and creativity of former students gave him great pride. One of the first coaches to introduce lacrosse in schools west of the Mississippi, he also coached young men in football, skiing and hockey. He especially enjoyed transitioning to coach women’s ice hockey and lacrosse, where he nurtured the spirit of team camaraderie and good sport.

His survivors, whom he introduced to adventures around the world include his wife of 63 years, Hope Stout Connors, and children: Timothy Phillips Connors and wife Kendra Connors; Andrew Lamarche Connors and husband Rémy Rotenier; Hope Bayard Connors; and grandchildren, Hamilton Phillips Connors, Lachlan Cryder Connors, and Hope Balsam Brown.

There will be a celebration of Edward’s life at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Denver Botanic Gardens. In lieu of flowers, please make any contributions to the Denver Botanic Gardens in his name by calling 720-865-3528.