Donor Spotlight: Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust

The campaign to raise funding for our River Bend Farm project brings forth the special opportunity for everyday people to be honored by family and friends through gifts in their name. The places at River Bend Farm that have been (and continue to be!) named, hold heartfelt stories of people and businesses whose life's mission or business promise is to preserve our natural resources and promote their conservation through educational programming. In several instances our supporters have been inspired to raise funds from friends and family in honor of someone they hold dear. We look forward to sharing the intimate purpose of each gift with all of your in The Ecology School community!


Written by Bryan Matluk, Development Director

We have a saying at The Ecology School that "ecology is the science of making connections." Sometimes these are the connections a species of bird has with a particular type of tree and sometimes it is the relationships we form with nature and each other. Our connection to the late Daniel E. Offutt III, is a study in how important these connections are and how they often add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

"Ever since I was a little girl I remember my Uncle John talking about The Ecology School and how instead of presents for Christmas he just wanted us to make a donation" says Abigail Humphrey about her uncle, John Paynter. Twenty years ago John, a life-long environmentalist, joined The Ecology School as one of its first Board Members. Since then, "it has become a part of John's identity. He has always shared the school's growth and good work with every member of the family" says Laura Humphrey, John's sister and Abigail's mother.

In 2015 nearing the end of her ninth and final decade, John's mother, Jane Paynter, became close friends with Daniel E. Offutt III, a retired stock investor, who was living at the same senior living community. The two became friends right away; “They would sit together in the common room and ate all of their meals together” says Laura, who visited weekends with her husband, Steve, a lawyer in Washington D.C. Both Steve and Laura found themselves spending almost as much time with Dan as with Jane. Steve and Dan would often share stories about their families and passions. Dan, whose interests varied from sailing to metal sculpture to gardening, shared family stories and advice with Steve. After many months of friendship, Dan passed away quietly on November 24, 2016.

Several months later, the executor of Dan's estate, Dick Orenstein, contacted Steve and Laura. One of Dan's last wishes was that, as a thank you for their friendship and advice, Steve and Laura be able to direct some of the charitable giving from his estate. "Right away we thought of The Ecology School," says Laura, "which just happens to be in line with Dan's personal philanthropy and so close to our family."

This past summer, John invited Laura, Steve and Abigail to tour River Bend Farm. “Oh my gosh, it's absolutely beautiful” says Abigail, “a dream come true and the perfect transition from the family that lived there." In November, these myriad connections culminated with the gift of $250,000 from The Daniel E. Offutt ||| Charitable Trust. It was Dick's relationship with Dan and their relationship with Steve that led Laura and Steve to honor John by directing this gift to The Ecology School, but there is something more...

"You've (TES) been so attentive through this whole process." says Steve. “It's emotional to think how Dan's legacy will be the positive impact that TES students will have on our environment for generations to come. We have such confidence in what you are doing."

TES is incredibly grateful for the support of John Paynter, Steve and Laura Humphrey, Abigail Humphrey, Jane Paynter, Dick Orenstein and the late Daniel E. Offutt, III.

From dorm rooms to outdoor pathways, each thoughtfully designed feature models sustainable construction practices and serves as a teaching resource for our program participants. If you would like to learn more about naming opportunities at River Bend Farm, please contact Development Director, Bryan Matluk at (207) 283-9951 or