Our chapter's roots go back to the early 1960s, when the Delaware County Audubon Society was formed, with its headquarters in Muncie, Indiana. Much like our chapter today, this local birding and nature club came together on a regular basis for informative meetings, fields trips, and social events.
In 1974, Charles Wise, one of the club's founders, urged his fellow Auduboners to link their group to the National Audubon Society and expand its range to the six surrounding counties.
Thus, the East Central Indiana Audubon Society (ECIAS) was created to serve Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, and Randolph Counties. Individuals in these counties who were already members of the National Audubon Society were given the opportunity to join this new regional chapter. Many did join, and the growth continued. Within a very short time, the East Central Indiana Audubon Society had grown from a few dozen individuals to nearly 500 members, thanks to two ambitious membership drives.
In those early days, the chapter met on Ball State's campus in the Robert H. Cooper Science building, which had been named in honor of Dr. Cooper, a biology professor and one of the group's original board members. In the following years, the location for monthly meetings moved to another building at Ball State, then to the Muncie Eye Center and, from the late 1990s to 2011, to the Minnetrista Cultural Center. In 2012 monthly meetings moved to their present location, the Kennedy Branch of the Muncie Public Library.
Then, as now, the chapter took half a dozen or more field trips each year to favorite birding spots around Indiana and western Ohio, and since 1983 the chapter has hosted an annual conservation awards banquet, at which more than 100 individuals and organizations have been honored for their contributions to the environment.
In 2003 the chapter was renamed the Robert Cooper Audubon Society (RCAS), to honor Dr. Cooper for his years of leadership in our own organization and in the Indiana Audubon Society.
Through the years, the ECIAS/RCAS has undertaken its share of environmental causes: fighting to prevent development of Christy Woods, an 18-acre wooded retreat on the Ball State campus; raising thousands of dollars to preserve land in Costa Rica, the winter home to many of the neotropical songbirds that breed in Indiana; writing letters to local newspaper editors, state legislators, and the Indiana governor to speak out on various issues; local habitat preservation and restoration projects; and many others. Most recently, we've been protesting the proposed Mounds Reservoir.
We have also assisted local and regional environmental organizations, such as the Wildlife Resqu Haus and a wide range of other projects, such as erecting osprey nesting platforms and hosting the first Living Lightly Fair. In recent years many of our efforts have focused on habitat restoration/preservation in our seven-county region.
From 1974-2015, 13 individuals have served as President or Co-president: Charles Wise (who served full or partial terms four times), Thad Godish (three terms), Betty Guemple (partial term), Phyllis Yuhas, Pam Popovich, Lois Rockhill, Barb Stedman (three terms), Janet Tuhey, Mike Lannoo (partial term), Robin Dungan (partial term), Bonnie Nicholson (one-and-a-half terms), Jon Creek, and Sarah McKillip (in her third term).
Despite some changes and the passing of the years, however, the legacy of the Robert Cooper Audubon Society has remained the same. We continue working to conserve our natural resources and to enjoy the beauty of nature and the pleasure of birding with one another. We have done our best to remain true to the commitment and vision of Charles Wise and the many others who made the East Central Indiana Audubon Society a reality in 1974 and the many hundreds of individuals who have been faithful members for more than four decades.