Larry L. Dolphin


Larry Dolphin moved to Austin in 1988 with his wife, Nancy, and their two children, Amber and Ben, to become the Director of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. As a self-proclaimed naturalist, he quickly became a leader on local environmental issues.

Larry is responsible for building a strong partnership between the Nature Center and area schools. He worked with local science teachers to create a dedicated curriculum for school children – kindergarten through 7th grade. This partnership emphasizes the importance of “getting kids outside” and provides students with the opportunity to participate in annual field trips to the Nature Center. During his tenure as director, Larry also developed a suite of summer programs, brought in many guest musicians, educators, presenters, and created special events focusing on birds, water, and prairies. He started an intern program, which focused on developing future natural resource professionals. He also enjoyed mentoring dozens of middle and high school students, encouraging them to explore careers in biology and nature.

Through his leadership, the Friends of the Hormel Nature Center raised funds to acquire and restore land. Since 1988, 5 parcels of land, equaling 231 acres have been added to the Nature Center site, bringing the total land area to 518 acres. In 1995 the Ruby Rupner Auditorium was added. Larry was instrumental in advocating for the new Interpretive Center that opened just six months after his retirement.

Larry continues to volunteer at the local Izaak Walton League Chapter and the Austin Audubon Society. In 2019, largely due to Larry’s legacy, Austin was recognized as a Bird City in Minnesota, and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center was recognized as a Regionally Significant Park in Greater Minnesota by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission.

Larry Dolphin has made Austin a better place to live for all; whether they walk on two, four, or many legs; have skin, fur, feathers, or scales. His passion for the outdoors will have an impact on others for many years to come.

Do you know someone that has made an impact on the City of Austin? Submit a Pillars of the City nomination for next year!