Last Update: 08/26/2023
Robert Sypolt, Volunteer of the Year by Mark Double
There is no better chestnut advocate in the WV chapter than Robert Sypolt of Preston County. Robert has traveled from one end of the state to the other, working with faculty at West Liberty University in the northern panhandle to monks at the Russian Orthodox monastery in Wyoming County in the southern coal fields. Robert is a tireless advocate. The definition of an advocate is “a person who publicly supports a particular cause” and that definition fits Robert perfectly for his love for The American Chestnut Foundation’s goal of restoring the species into our eastern North American forests.
Robert is a life-long leader. He has been a teacher/educator in the WV public school system since 1967, acting as teacher, principal and central office administrator. He is the current president of the Preston County Historical Society, a member of the Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, the Treasurer for Red Rocks cemetery, a member of the Rowlesburg Revitalization Committee, a 40-year member of the Lion’s Club, and he oversees the Dominion Energy Grant to establish a botanical garden at Preston County High School.
Robert has been a two-term president of the WV chapter, stepping down only because of bylaw stipulations.
Janna Cachola, a New Zealand actress wrote:
If you have a voice, use it.
If you have legs, stand up.
If you have feet, step up.
If you have each other, fight together.
Those sentiments succinctly sum up Robert’s tireless efforts. He has used his voice to speak to Preston County middle and high school students, lecturing on chestnut. He has not limited his speaking engagements to solely students, but he has talked to numerous organizations state-wide, sometimes asking for a place on a meeting agenda so that he can voice TACF’s goals. He has used his legs to travel across the state, planting trees, rouging out dead stems at the WV state nursery and maintaining many plantings state-wide by mowing and applying herbicide. Robert uses his feet in many ways. He personally established and maintains the Duane Waddell chestnut orchard at Preston County High School, along with an arboretum of native trees and shrubs. The chestnut orchard was established in 2013 and for the past six years, Robert has added more backcross trees to the orchard and he solely maintains the orchard with his own equipment. Robert is the current chair of the Rowlesburg Chestnut Festival, an event held for the past 12 years in the small Preston County town. He oversees the entire event, from scientific speakers to the banquet and the printing of the event brochure. Robert is a team player as he is always to first to volunteer for any chapter activity. He has not limited his efforts to just state-wide efforts in WV, but he has been a member of TACF’s national education committee.
Robert does more than simply plant trees and give presentations. He always has TACF brochures in his truck as he attempts to gain more members for the organization. Robert’s wife, Carolyn, is very supportive of her husband’s cross-country trips on behalf of chestnut. Robert indicated that he doesn’t know what he’ll do if his trusty white pickup truck ever gives out, as his truck has carried him on the highways and dirt roads of the great State of West Virginia, all on behalf of the American chestnut tree and the efforts by TACF for restoration.
Carolyn Evans Baumgardner Sypolt graduated from Aurora High School.
From there she went to Fairmont State College and graduated summa cum laude with a BS Degree in Elementary Education. Her ﬁrst teaching job was fourth grade at Bruceton School. After that she moved to Rowlesburg and taught ﬁrst grade while earning her Master’s Degree
plus 45 hours from West Virginia University. After marrying Bob Sypolt, she
moved to Kingwood in 1990.
She taught second grade at Kingwood Elementary until she retired in 2011.
Since retiring she has continued to substitute in the Preston County School
System. She and Bob are members of Saint Sebastian Catholic Church in Kingwood.
Carolyn is also a member of Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma,
an educational honorary for women educators.
She has one son, Evan Baumgardner, of Seattle, WA and one granddaughter,
In 2015 Dr. Joseph Nassif felt it was important to get the youth involved in the Chestnut Festival. Joe came up with the idea of the essay contest to choose a junior prince and princess so more youth would be involved in bringing back the American Chestnut. It was decided that a cash prize would be given to the first and second place winners. Their role was to help in the crowning of Mr. and Ms. Chestnut. Joe asked Carolyn if she would be the liaison between the schools and the Chestnut Festival. Carolyn took this responsibility for the 2015 and 2016 Chestnut Festivals. In 2017 Bob Sypolt took over that responsibility because he had more opportunity for collaboration with the middle schools.