One of the Ward Museum’s founders and the serving Ward Foundation chairman, Samuel H. Dyke, died June 24 at age 81.
Dyke served the Foundation and Museum for more than 40 years, and was instrumental in helping the museum to grow from humble beginnings to one of the premier wildfowl art institutions in the world.
He played an important role in nearly all the exhibits featured at the Ward Museum, and was active in the Museum’s daily curatorial operations—from exhibit conception and conservation to hanging objects on the walls.
Before his time with the Ward Foundation, Dyke earned a bachelor’s in Forestry from Pennsylvania State University, and a master’s in Forestry from Yale University. He went on to work as a forester for Glatfelter, where he was instrumental in brokering conservation easements that led to the protection of extensive tracts of land, including parts of the Nature Conservancy’s Nassawango Creek Preserve.
Dyke’s contributions to scholarship related to the waterfowling heritage of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and are unequalled; he was an expert on the history of hunting and decoy carving, and was regularly published in major magazines, journals, and books.
In 2008 Dyke received the Heritage Professional Award from the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council. Today the library named in honor of Dyke at the Ward Museum holds much of his written legacy, as well as the works of those he inspired.
In addition to leaving his mark on the worlds of decoy and decorative wildfowl carving and conservation, Sam Dyke also greatly impacted the youth of Delmarva. He was long active with area Boy Scouts, with whom he worked as a master.
Dyke’s interests in wildfowl extended to the world of birding as well. He was one of the preeminent experts bridging hunting heritage and contemporary birding activities. Dyke served as president of the Tri-County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, led many Christmas Bird Counts, and was a regional leader in recording birds for conservation purposes. Dyke could be found outdoors looking for and appreciating birds nearly every day.
Sam Dyke’s importance reaches deep within decoy collection, birding, and wildlife artist communities. Voices from friends in these circles may best recount Sam’s legacy.
“I knew Sam Dyke by many disciplines: collector, carver, judge, duck hunter, birder, curator, chairman of the board, evaluator of antiquities, and a wood specialist at his ‘real job’ at Glatfelter Pulpwood,” said World champion carver Rich Smoker.
“Sam was the Ward Foundation, guiding the Ward for over 40 years, through the tumultuous waters with an unerring and straight-forward hand,” he said. “Sam lead by example; no job was too big or too small not to be finished with his eye to detail. He had the uncanny ability to be able to see your strengths and weaknesses, take them, and guide each person to use their assets to benefit the whole.”
“Sam was so multi-talented and universally well-liked by all,” said author and decoy historian Henry Stansbury. “He was both creative and artistic in his role as a sophisticated collector…[as] our curator and exhibit planning and installation expert, and in his recurring leadership role that we pressed on him several times over the years when we absolutely needed his quiet good humored steady hand at the helm of the Ward Museum.”
Said Jeffrey Gordon, president of the American Birding Association:
“His authority, charm, and charisma–all prodigious–were rooted in his quiet, caring, and self-effacing manner. He had a distinct talent for inspiring confidence. He was able to see good in you [that] you didn’t know you had and call it forth, just as he might lead someone to a view of some shy and heretofore unseen bird.”
A public celebration of Dyke’s life will be held at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art on Saturday, July 26, at 2 p.m.
Dyke was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ward Foundation when he passed, as well as chairman of the Curatorial Committee at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
He is survived by his wife, Ann Dyke, their four children, and extended family.