Ingy Arnold ’39
Retired Director of the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 72, No. 3, Spring 2001
A Boston Globe article once named Ingy Arnold "Mr. Walnut Seed," comparing him to John Chapman, the eccentric and prolific arborist famously known as Johnny Appleseed. "Although Johnny is dead," the story reads, "his spirit, enthusiasm, and love of fine trees live on in another native New Englander." Some twenty years after his retirement from the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery, Ingy Arnold's love for trees remains strong as an oak-or make that strong as a New England black walnut.
It was his attempt to create a strain of black walnut trees hardy enough to withstand New England winters that brought Ingy Arnold recognition, but he started his career as a forester many years before. In 1941, after graduating with a master's degree from the Yale School of Forestry, young Ingy jumped into the industry fighting fires as a forest guard for the U.S. Forest Service in California. A year later, he was working as a timber cruiser for a logging company in Mobile, Alabama when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His forestry surveying skills were soon in hot demand, and Ingy served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army field artillery, receiving the Purple Heart in Germany at the Battle of Ruhr Pocket. After the War and a brief stint as a logger, Ingy ended up at Michigan State University where he taught forestry, became interested in nursery work, and served as Forest Manager from 1947-1957, before moving back to New England.
"I loved my nursery work," Ingy says. "My wife used to bug me that I could be higher up, could be a State Forester, but I never wanted to do that; I didn't want to be tied to a desk. I wanted to be in the woods." He laughs, "Sometimes, I'd invite the State Foresters out in the field with me just to get them out of their offices!"
Ingy still becomes frustrated with people who don't understand forestry management, "yet holler and make a fuss every time a tree is cut. It does absolutely no good to grow trees if you're not going to cut them. They're a renewable resource," he says. "That's the object-you grow trees to cut them."
An amateur wood worker all his life, Ingy has built and donated several beautiful coffee tables to Bowdoin, one of which sits in the Kate Wiggins Room of Cram Alumni House. (And, as an apprentice grade granite mason, he is responsible for the granite floor of the War Memorial between Hubbard Hall and Gibson Hall, a gift of Class of 1939.) For twelve years after retiring, Ingy volunteered at two
local elementary schools "with another old geezer like me, teaching kids to make pencil holders, boxes, bird feeders, and the like." Two years ago, he built 300 3-inch high trays to serve as student mailboxes at a local high school. One of his current projects is (in conjunction with a local historical society) to build a wooden diorama of the town's old railway station and rail bridges. When
completed, the diorama will include a working train model, and will be housed in the old station, which is being turned into a museum.
Well known at Bowdoin for his support of the hockey program, Ingy was named "Number One Hockey Fan" in 1992 and awarded a plaque for his loyalty and enthusiasm. But, he's not merely a great spectator; Ingy was a heck of a player himself in his day (which stretched well into his 70s). A star center in high school, at Bowdoin, Yale, and in the U.S. Army during World War II, he later founded Concord, New Hampshire's Youth Hockey Program, in which he also coached for over 30 years.
At age 85, Ingy is ever the man of action. While walking through the woods on a recent trip to campus, he came upon a group of students doing fieldwork. "Well, one of those girls recognized me, ran up and put her arms around me and said, 'Ingy!' The other old folks with me didn't know quite what to think," he says dryly, "But I loved it," and breaks into a long, hearty laugh, polishing his story
like a piece of fine walnut.