Sierra College to remember John Muir

A pair of presenters will give a history lesson on the legendary conservationist
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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“Growing up Muir”

When: 5 p.m. Friday, April 26

Where: Sewell Hall Room S-111, Sierra College, 5000 Rocklin Road

Cost: $15 donation, including a light picnic dinner before the following event


“John Muir Among the Animals”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26

Where: Dietrich Theatre, Sierra College, 5000 Rocklin Road

Advance admission: $10 general, $5 students/seniors/museum members

At the door: $12 general, $7 students/seniors/museum members

Tickets and info: Jennifer Skillen,


or (916) 660-7926; Joe Medeiros,


or (530) 660-8250

Sierra College will cap a week of Earth Day festivities later this month with a Friday night double bill on renowned naturalist John Muir, featuring an inside look at the man from a local descendent followed by a play about his exploits.

Co-sponsored by the Sierra College Natural History Museum and the Sierra College Press, the event will be open to the public at the college’s Rocklin campus at 5 p.m. Friday, April 26.

As the founder of the Sierra Club and a writer who encouraged the protection of natural resources and parks like Sequoia, Yosemite and Yellowstone, Muir helped popularize the conservation movement at the turn of the century. Now Sierra College has enlisted his great-great-grandson, Roseville resident Robert Hanna, to discuss his legacy.

No stranger to Muir-themed speaking engagements, Hanna will give a new presentation, “Growing Up Muir,” to reveal a lesser-known side of his famous ancestor.

“A lot of people learn of him in a complete opposite way, where they learn of his accomplishments in conservation and national parks, things like that, but I was raised understanding him and learning and hearing stories of him from a family perspective,” he said. “It’s just taking people on a unique, inside look at a lot of stories that have never been told, a lot of photos that have never been seen and just kind of a different side of Muir.”

Hanna said the idea for the presentation came up in conversations with faculty in the college’s Sierra Nevada program, including his former professor, Joe Medieros.

Now editor-in-chief of the Sierra College Press, Medeiros said he encountered Hanna as a student in 2008, a financial planner by profession who only gradually kindled an interest in his own family history after taking Medeiros’ class.

“He fell in love with the Sierra in that class, and of course we mentioned John Muir a number of times, who is kind of, conservation-wise, California’s favorite son. Then he announces to me that that’s his great-great-grandfather, and he started digging in a lot deeper,” he said. “He got very, very serious about learning more about John Muir and his heritage, and then became quite the advocate for wild lands and state parks.”

Hanna is now working with state legislators to prevent park closures, acting as a spokesperson for naturalists in much the same way Muir had done.

Medeiros said the tradition is worth preserving, and remembering.

“There are more places in California named after John Muir than anyone else, including Fremont and so on, so John Muir is a very, very significant figure,” he said. “If you come to Rob’s talk, you’ll learn a little bit more about the man, John Muir, his history, where he grew up, how he got involved in the Sierra Nevada and conservation. So it’s a great way to learn, in just a few hours, an enormous amount about a very, very important person in the state of California.”

Following the Hanna presentation, John Muir impersonator Lee Stetson will make his 21st annual appearance at the college to perform “John Muir Among the Animals,” a one-man play recounting some of Muir’s more famous travel stories.

“We bring (Stetson) back every year. He’s done three or four different plays,” Medeiros said. “Most of them he does alone as John Muir. He does another one with Teddy Roosevelt, when Muir and Roosevelt met in Yosemite and talked about the parks and all kinds of great stuff.”