Skip to main content

Awards & Honors: 1997 National Humanities Medalist

Don Henley

Don Henley has given real meaning to the concept of using one's celebrity status to advance a cause. He has long been known as a songwriter and one of the founders of the rock group The Eagles. Since 1990, however, Henley, a longtime environmental activist, is getting more publicity for his role as founder and spokesman for the Walden Woods Project, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting the historic woods surrounding Walden Pond outside Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts.

Henley's admiration for the writings and conservationist views of Henry David Thoreau led him to found the Walden Woods Project seven years ago. Since then he has helped raise $17 million by organizing benefit concerts, record sales, and other fundraisers.

The money raised has been used to purchase land slated for commercial development around Walden Pond. The project also purchased a historic eighteen-room Tudor estate near the pond to house the Thoreau Institute, a research library, and archives devoted to the study of the humanities and the environment as it relates to Thoreau's writings and philosophy. The Walden Woods Project and the Thoreau Society will run the facility jointly, giving scholars a chance to study Thoreau's writings in the surroundings he cherished.

By Maggie Riechers