S.D.R. Considered to be one of the twentieth century’s outstanding figures in ornithology and wildlife conservation, S. Dillon Ripley began building a collection of waterfowl in Litchfield, Connecticut when he was a teenager in the 1920's. After earning a PhD in Biology, he became a professor of Ornithology at Yale University and served as Director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. In 1964, Dillon became the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, leading the Institution through its period of greatest growth and expansion. He reinvigorated the Smithsonian, building numerous new museums including the National Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt and the Renwick Gallery, and developing the Smithsonian Magazine. Over his lifetime, Dillon authored numerous articles, fifteen books, and received honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. As an avid aviculturist, Dillon Ripley is credited with being the first person to successfully propagate many threatened and endangered species in captivity, such as the Red-breasted goose, Nene goose, Emperor goose, and Laysan teal.
LRWC Dillon and his wife, Mary Livingston Ripley, an entomologist, were partners in most activities and recognized the potential for their waterfowl collection and preserve to become a valuable conservation resource. In 1985, they donated much of their land to a non-profit foundation dedicated to waterfowl conservation, research, and education. Today the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary spans roughly 150 acres and includes a 16-acre network of fenced aviaries, ponds, and barns. Dillon and Mary's three daughters, in concert with the LRWC Board of Directors, continue to develop and expand their parents' original vision.