R. Jonathan Fairbanks, Jr.


R. Jonathan Fairbanks, Jr. died peacefully April 2, 2021 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Born July 7, 1939, in St. Johns, Michigan, to Rev. Dr. Rollin Jonathan and Phyllis Maynard Fairbanks, he led a full and adventurous life. His magical childhood was spent in the woods and fields of Lincoln, Massachusetts where he developed his love of the outdoors, and baseball. A graduate of Belmont Hill School and Cornell University, he continued a passion for learning and literature at Harvard Divinity School, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and University of Otago, New Zealand. During these years he was also sharing his love of adventure with others as an instructor at the Colorado Outward Bound School. In 1964, he instructed at the Devon Outward Bound School (England), on his way to New Zealand - a hiker and climber’s paradise. For four years, Jonathan taught at the University of Otago while he researched wilderness and literature, earning his PhD in English. He, his wife Nancy, and their Kiwi born son Terry, explored, hiked and camped in “the southern Alps” at every opportunity.After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of New Brunswick (Canada), when daughter Kristin had just had joined the family, Jonathan joined the faculty and subsequently earned tenure at the State University of New York in Potsdam. There he bought his dream farmhouse and wooded land where he and Nancy raised their children. He also enjoyed cutting firewood, raising chickens and growing vegetables on his farm, and hiking, canoeing, and climbing in the high peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains. While teaching Canadian and American Literature, he created and developed the Wilderness Workshop at Potsdam College. This extraordinarily popular program, which combined the reading of wilderness literature with immersion in the wilderness, was carried on as the Adirondack Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, with programs held in several disciplines and in multiple locations from the Adirondacks to the Northern Ontario lake region, to the Colorado Rockies. Jonathan went on to share his love of teaching and adventurous spirit with students at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, Marlboro College in Vermont, and at the American University in Bulgaria before retiring back to his beloved farm, where he continued to cut his own firewood and never missed a Clarkson Women’s Hockey game. Jonathan is predeceased by his parents, Rev. Rollin J. and Phyllis Maynard Fairbanks. Those who are missing him greatly include his children, Rollin J. “Terry” Fairbanks III (Mary Linda) and Kristin Fairbanks Luther (former husband John), grandchildren Eleanor, Henry, Miles, Max, and Theo, sisters Jennifer Davenport (Clark) and Pamela Kirkpatrick (Rick), brother Peter (Pippa), many nieces and nephews and their families, his former spouse Nancy, his special friend Geri McNeil, and his many long time friends.The family wishes to thank the caring staff at Riderwood Senior Living’s Arbor Ridge in Silver Spring, Maryland and at Montgomery Hospice of Rockville Maryland for their caring and attentive support.In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Jonathan’s memory to Outward Bound Scholarships, Golden, CO, Riderwood Senior Living Benevolent Care Fund, Silver Spring, MD, or Montgomery Hospice, Rockville, MD. A memorial service will be announced at a later date to ensure Covid-19 safety.

Outward Bound School: https://www.outwardbound.org/donate/

Montgomery Hospice: https://montgomeryhospice.org/donate-now/

Riderwood: https://www.ericksonliving.com/riderwood

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