Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview with Jane Goodall

I had a thrilling experience this morning. I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with one of my lifelong heroes, the esteemed Dr. Jane Goodall.

Dr. Goodall, who conducted pioneering research on chimpanzee behavior in Tanzania starting in 1960, was quite literally the reason I became a field biologist in my younger days. I cannot begin to describe the impact this woman has had on my life.

Several weeks ago a neighbor, knowing my deep admiration, informed me that Dr. Goodall would be speaking at Gonzaga University in Spokane on April 9. In the spirit of "It never hurts to ask," I immediately called the university and asked if Dr. Goodall was granting interviews.

I was put in touch with the Director of Community and Public Relations, a kindly woman named Mary Joan H., who said she would add me to the list of interested press. At that point she wasn't certain whether Dr. Goodall's tight schedule would permit any time for interviews.

Yesterday while I was out threshing wheat, Don came trotting outside with a notepad in hand. "Drop what you're doing right now," he announced with a grin, "and call back a lady named Mary Joan about an interview with Jane Goodall."

I squeaked in excitement, dropped the flail, and dashed for the house. Ms. H. said that Dr. Goodall wasn't available to do one-on-one interviews, but would I be interested in participating in a conference call interview tomorrow morning? You bet! Dr. Goodall was still back east somewhere, and the call was to take place at 8 am our time.

I was faced with the problem of how to record the interview, since I wanted to base some future articles and columns on it. Don, clever fellow that he is, learned that our cell phones have a recording function. We tested it with a sample call, which was recorded in perfect clarity. Phew!

So this morning, heart a-flutter, I gathered my prepared interview questions and called into the conference number. On the phone with me (besides Ms. H.) were three other representatives from the media -- a radio station, a newspaper, and a regional magazine, all from Spokane. I was the only freelance writer in the group, and was later told by Ms. H that it was my enthusiasm that prompted her to select me to participate. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude.

We had a fifteen minute delay in connecting with Dr. Goodall's representative because of a misunderstanding (she thought we were calling her; we thought she was calling us). Once this was cleared up, there was a momentary delay, and then the gentle British tones of my favorite scientist in the whole world was on the other end of the line.

Ms. H. briefly introduced us and then invited the participants to ask their questions round-robin fashion. When it was my turn, I couldn't resist a little bit of history. I told her, "It was because of your influence in the late 1970s that I became a field biologist myself, and I worked throughout my 20s and 30s in the field before retiring to stay home with my kids. Some of my most prized possessions are the two letters I have from you dated 1979 and 1980, and the book you signed for me in 1980 when I saw you at a lecture. So first and foremost I must thank you for offering hope and direction to a passionate teenager who, thirty-five years ago, wanted nothing more than to spend her life among animals, which in fact I have done. It’s a pleasure to be able to thank you in person."

[I had this all written out in advance, of course. Do you think I could have been anywhere near that clear or eloquent otherwise? Not with my heart in my throat.]

Dr. Goodall was patient and kindly and extremely intelligent in her answers to all our questions. Half an hour barely scratched the surface -- we all had many more questions we could have asked -- but her time was limited and she doubtless had other interviews scheduled right after ours.

I hung up the phone in a glow of hero-worship. My kids have been chuckling at me all day, watching their mom react as if Dr. Goodall was the most coveted of movie stars.

Over the next few weeks I intend to write a number of articles and columns based on this interview. I'm thankful it's recorded so I can document every word Dr. Goodall said.

It would have been delightful to interview Dr. Goodall in person, but this was the next best thing. Wow.


  1. Well that's really great! Very good news indeed!

  2. How wonderful!!! I also deeply admired her as a teenager and have followed her career. She was a very good influence for me. I considered following that sort of line of work but in the end, I stayed with my agricultural roots.


    What an amazing opportunity. YAY you!!!! :D

  4. WOW, Indeed!

    Now that's what I call "winning the lottery!"

    It's clear that you've been inspired by Dr. Goodall - having kept those momentos in such safe keeping for so long and choosing a life path in her reflection. Being able to actually talk to her must have been amazing.

    Hero worship? Natch. It's genuine admiration.

    And I feel genuinely happy for you!

    Just Me

  5. Patrice,

    Congratulations Patrice! I'm so happy for you, to be able to interview your mentor, Dr. Jane Goodall. I feel as if I can hear the excitement in your voice as I read your post. I can't wait to read your upcoming articles on this interview.
    Your Friend,
    Sandy, Oklahoma Transient

  6. and what type of cell phone do you have that will record your conversation?

    1. It's an AT&T el-cheapo phone, whatever free phone they offered when we signed up for cell coverage. It's not a "smart" phone, just a phone.

      - Patrice

  7. This is so so cool! I am glad you posted. The girls are in awe! Had no idea that Dr. Goodall would be at Gonzaga and probably would've remained clueless without the heads up. I just emailed to find out if discount educator tickets apply to homeschools. :) Maybe we'll see you there? jessica

    1. YES!!! Have emailed you a couple times but didn't hear back. Know you're busy. Shoot me an email when you have a chance. Would love to see you all :)

  8. Your blog made me smile. I too have followed Jane Goodall, as a role model for women everywhere. I could feel your enthusiasm and admiration for this amazing woman.

  9. I am so happy for you!

    My husband always says that attitude is 90% of accomplishment and you just proved him right by sharing that your honest enthusiasm earned you such a marvelous opportunity to speak to a real hero.

    Bless you for sharing.


  10. Thrilling! I saw her at a science conference decades ago with Scott. I had her sign my t-shirt!

  11. Way cool!



  12. I am most impressed. Congratulations!

  13. How exciting for you!! Congrats!

  14. Oh how wonderful for you! I could absolutely hear the excitement in your voice. It is always so amazing when a lifelong dream comes true. I couldn't be more happy for you. Congratulations!

  15. She is a huge liberal and United Nations supporter who was given a Messenger of Peace award. The same award a bunch of libs such as George Clooney have won. I would not give her one second to promote any leftist/Marxist environmentalist agenda. Sorry.