I am a professor at the University of Kentucky and have been a member of the Sierra Club for over 25 years. I was a member of the executive committee of the chapter for several years in the early 2000s when our chapter’s work on power plants, energy, and coal-related matters got going in earnest. I also support other conservation efforts that our chapter has engaged in over the years. However, going forward, I think an important goal for our chapter should be to reconnect with an original mission of the Sierra Club, namely facilitating responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.
Mary Cupp is a native Kentuckian, born in Owensboro, Daviess County. She attended Daviess County public schools, graduating in 1962. Her post-secondary education was at Murray State University, the University of Illinois, followed by graduation from the University of New Orleans in 1971 with a BS in chemistry education. She was a public school secondary math teacher in Hattiesburg, MS during the first two years of the school system’s forced integration, which was an eye-opening look at what the historically separate and unequal education had created. After a sabbatical as a full-time mother/homemaker, she returned to graduate education at Cornell University where she received the Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry in 1984. Her professional career primarily focused on biological research related to metabolic regulation of selenium (graduate work), regulation of lipoprotein lipase, a key enzyme controlling lipid metabolism (post-doctoral research), then 20+ years researching the control of pathogen transmission by biting insects conducted at Cornell University, the University of Arizona and Auburn University. She retired and returned to residency in Owensboro with her husband (and research partner) in 2006.
She has long had a passion for spending free moments outside among the rocks, trees and plants of the natural world and, with retirement from a busy laboratory program, has become more active in the Pennyrile Group of the Cumberland Chapter of Sierra Club. Returning to Kentucky after a long period away she is dismayed by the deterioration of the natural environment statewide, including the air, water and land quality. Although she supports a number of organizations committed to environmental preservation, she is especially impressed with the energy that Sierra Club members bring to their effort. If selected to serve as a member of the Cumberland Executive Committee she will strive to represent the goals of her local Pennyrile Group but with a vision to preserve the quality and viability of the natural world for all.
Although my background in Economics, Commercial Real Estate Development and small business owner, is not the stereotypical Sierra Club hiker, Environmental activist, or “tree-hugger” background, I have found that it allows me the insight to balance the heartfelt issues of environmental stewardship with some of hard economic decisions the planet faces as population and global demands grow. Joining the Sierra Club for me was a way to “Think Global, Act Local”. Initially, I was active in the Northern Kentucky Group Conservation Committee helping with Filmfest and events such as Earth Day. Then I served as Communications chairperson working to keep our Group members informed of the actions and activities of the Group. Posting information in The Cumberland and the Convio are two of our most popular resources.
Most recently, for the past three years I have served as Chairperson for the Northern Kentucky Group. Without hesitation I would say that the Northern Kentucky Group is one of the most dynamic and hard-working group of individuals I have had the privilege of working with. It is because of this enthusiasm and inspiration that I am running to serve on the Chapter ExCom. I have seen the commitment and hard work of the Chapter Ex-Com and I would hope that I could contribute to the work and effort of the Chapter. I have taken part in the Sierra Club Leadership Program and I am a member of the Chapter Fundraising group. The knowledge and tools gained from these experiences will allow me to make meaningful contributions to the Chapter.
I am interested in serving a second term on the Cumberland Chapter Executive Committee, having been Vice Chair in 2013 and learning a lot from serving with our knowledgeable issue chairs and involving myself in activities, hearings and meetings. I have been on the committee for the Healthy Foods Local Farms conference for the past 7 years, and am very interested in having local, sustainably grown food available to people throughout the state. As an Outings Leader, my primary passion is spring wildflower walks, and I serve as co-hostess for the Louisville Group’s monthly social dinners. I am a frequent pen-pal with our legislative representatives on environmental issues, urging them to support clean water and air initiatives, fight mountaintop removal, support sustainable energy sources and preserve our national and state wild lands and wildlife.
A Chapter priority is the recruitment and engagement of younger people, building on their energy, advocacy and openness to change to tackle hard issues we face in this coal-based, CAFO-burdened, conservative state. As a retiree, I want not only to enjoy and preserve our natural world, but to ensure that it is there for my grandchildren. Continuing active involvement in Sierra Club leadership is an opportunity to use my time, organizational skills and enthusiasm for causes that matter.