Phyllis and Frank Yuhas Woods is one of the most pristine woodlands in east central Indiana. It features towering old growth oaks, hickories, beech and black cherry trees. The wetland is alive with frogs and colorful salamanders. In the spring, this forest is carpeted in a rainbow of wildflowers. A display seldom found in our region. In autumn, the diverse tree canopy is ablaze with a riot of orange, yellow, and maroon leaves.
This exceptional nature preserve is closed to the public except for a few special events each year. Some of these events are public. Exclusive opportunities to visit Phyllis and Frank Yuhas Woods are sent to supporters subscribed to Red-tail’s email list.
Protecting this high quality forest and wetland had dramatic beginnings.
In November of 2004, Red-tail’s Executive Director received a call from a farmer in southern Randolph County about a 1,000 acre farm that was being auctioned off. This farmer told of a forest covered in white flowers that contained a section of Cabin Creek. Upon inspection, Red-tail discovered one of the highest quality upland woods and riparian wetlands complex in East Central Indiana. This discovery was made just three weeks before the forest was to be auctioned off as part of a farm sale.
Red-tail immediately started pursuing funding for this parcel from national organizations. However, due to lack of an appraisal, time of the year, and other factors, these organizations were unable to procure the funding. Red-tail then went to Star Press writer Seth Slaybaugh, who published the story of the forest on a Monday morning, just eight days before the auction was to take place. That same day, Red-tail received a call from Phyllis Yuhas who, after reading the story, asked to visit the site. During this visit she pledged $200,000 to help purchase the site.
The next day, Red-tail received a call from Danny Huston, who did likewise. Before the end of the week, Doug Owdendy pledged $100,000. This enabled Red-tail to attend the auction with a half a million dollars to purchase this magnificent woodland. In a well-attended auction, Red-tail successfully purchased this site. Once again Red-tail’s reputation as a professional and trustworthy land trust organization brought about the support of the community to preserve this flagship location for Red-tail.
Phyllis Ann (Yuhas) Nelson was born on November 17, 1922, in Grinnell, Iowa, the daughter of Gladys Shand Nelson and Edward L. Nelson. Gladys Nelson was a teacher, Iowa legislator (1950 to 1956), and Iowa League of Women Voters president.
Phyllis graduated from Swarthmore College in 1944, received a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Dr. Phyllis Yuhas was an emeritus professor of history and one of the founders of international education at Ball State University (BSU). She taught history at BSU from 1952 until her retirement in 1988.
In the mid-1960s, she organized the Office of International Programs at the university and inspired faculty and students alike to seek ways to globalize their research and studies. Her promotion of international studies sowed the seeds of faculty-led programs such as the London and Australia Centers and exchange programs, international consortia, and short-term summer programs.
In 1974, she became the director of International Studies at Ball State and was instrumental in establishing Ball State as a charter member of the International Student Exchange Program.
Dr. Phyllis Yuhas was an ardent traveler who spanned the globe in pursuit of a better understanding of world affairs. Such travels allowed her to pursue her passion for mountain climbing, including the Matterhorn and Mt. Kilimanjaro with her mother Gladys.
Gladys Nelson died in 1995 and established an endowment at Ball State to honor her daughter’s work in international education: the Phyllis Ann Yuhas International Scholarship Fund. Phyllis Yuhas died on February 21, 2006.
Theodore Frank Yuhas was born on February 24, 1916, in Phillips, Wisconsin, the son of George and Mary Yuhas. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Wisconsin State University at Superior in 1945 and the Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1949 and 1953 respectively.
Dr. Frank Yuhas served as the curriculum librarian at the San Diego County (Calif.) schools and taught at Wisconsin State University at River Falls. He was the head of the laboratory school at the Wisconsin State University at Eau Claire, from 1953 to 1955, and head of the laboratory school at Mankato State College in Minnesota from 1955 to 1958.
Dr. Frank Yuhas was a member of the Teachers College faculty at Ball State since 1958, teaching courses in the history and philosophy of education. He was president of the Muncie Human Relations Council from 1966 to 1968. He wrote for education journals and conducted studies on adult education and controversial issues in education.
On May 10, 1970, Frank Yuhas died unexpectedly at his home from what was believed to be a heart attack.
Both Phyllis and Frank were strong supporters of conservation and education. They were active with many environmental organizations including the Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Red-tail Land Conservancy. Phyllis was a serious advocate for the humane treatment of animals and served as the President of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In 2004, Phyllis read an article in Muncie’s The Star Press expressing an urgent request from Red-tail Land Conservancy for support to protect one of the last remaining hard-growth forests in east central Indiana. She walked the woods with Red-tail’s founder and executive director at the time, Barry Banks. He recalls her being awed by the beauty of the forest and appreciative of its importance.
Just two years before her death, Phyllis Yuhas provided a substantial financial contribution to Red-tail Land Conservancy for the acquisition of that forest. To reflect her and her husband’s devotion to nature, it was named in their honor as the Phyllis and Frank Yuhas Woods.