jean elisabeth geiger wright
advocate. educator. land conservationist.
2020 Inductee, Georgia Women of Achievement
“God’s not in the business of making any more land.”
-Jean Geiger Wright
City, Town, Region
Looking back on Jean Wright’s life, we see a woman who found her “calling”; defined as “a strong wish to do a job, usually one that is socially valuable.” Jean Wright did not set out to achieve great things to gain fame or praise; her daughter Kathy said, “she focused on everything but herself”. For over 50 years Jean devoted her time and talents concurrently pursuing her life’s calling in land conservation, environmental education and animal rights while raising three children, caring for her mother and her husband Elwood after he sustained a traumatic brain
Land conservation and environmental education were integrally linked and inseparable ideas for Jean. As an environmentalist before her time, her first conservation project was her own property, where she worked tirelessly to restore the 20-acre cotton farm they had purchased to the forest it had been for centuries. The culmination of her restoration efforts on her property has resulted in the Wright Center’s “...addition to the network of more than 500 Atlanta Audubon-certified Wildlife Sanctuaries across the metro area and North Georgia.” Jean continued by purchasing properties in Pickens and Union Counties to preserve land in its natural state in support
of wildlife, native plants and trees. She instilled a love and respect for the land in her children and left her own property in a conservation easement to be used for environmental education in perpetuity. The house and land were purchased by Cobb County after Jean’s death.
Now known as the Wright Center, on-site nature programming for school children was provided initially by the Chattahoochee Nature Center and more recently by Cobb County Parks. Cobb Master Gardeners offer monthly environmental programs for adults in area aligning with habitat preservation and creation. Jean was instrumental in effecting positive change state-wide by working with and supporting Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) projects, The Environmental Resources Network (T.E.R.N.), Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia (MCGTA) and GDNR’s Weekend for Wildlife (WFW). For over ten years she attended and sponsored guests at WFW on Sea Island. This annual event served a dual purpose – to raise funds for GDNR and to educate people about the challenges facing wildlife as a result of development.
She was a member of
T.E.R.N., MCTGA, the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS), Nature Conservancy, and a Director of the Southeast Land Preservation Trust (SLPT). She joined and financially supported these various 2 environmental organizations because of their focus on land conservation, wildlife preservation and education. Jean’s third passion began just after the family moved to Cobb and she regularly found stray dogs and puppies abandoned near her home.
Over four decades she pursued more and more zealously and broadly a personal campaign to find solutions to the inter-related problems she witnessed at the Animal Shelter. She responded to the appalling and inhumane treatment of
animals by lobbying for sanitary facilities and was instrumental in the passage of two Bond Referenda, in 1978 and 1992, to build two successively larger shelters.
With the support of the local Humane Society she provided leadership in creating programs at the Animal Shelter to increase adoption rates. Jean worked with the veterinarian community to provide low-cost spaying and neutering. In addition, she encouraged and guided one young veterinarian, who routinely provided free care to injured, abandoned dogs, to create the non-profit Homeless Pet Foundation to place his now healthy dogs in homes all over the United States. Jean became an active member of the Humane Society in 1967 and was appointed to the first Cobb County Animal Control Board
in 1987. She took on the task of meeting with and gaining support from the State Legislature in improving the Georgia Statutes regarding animal protection.
Wright was described by her friends and others as: “humble”, had a curiosity for knowledge and a warm, engaging personality. When she became interested in a subject area, she immersed herself in all the detail until she knew as much as possible, and more than most, working through a vast group of people to affect what she believed were needed changes and improvements. It was hard to say no to Jean Wright because she knew her subject well and was persuasive at winning people to her point of view.
It was not Jean’s intent to be in the spotlight or receive kudos. Nevertheless, she lobbied individuals, the School Board, the community through the P.T.A. and public officials individually until the issues were resolved. These early efforts in community service prepared Jean for her lifelong mission to make things right as she saw them. Once on the advocacy path, Jean never looked back until the day she died.