They Saved Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas After Falling in Love at Swarthmore College

Amy Vedder observes a mountain gorilla in Rwanda.
Image via Bill Weber
Amy Vedder observes a mountain gorilla in Rwanda.

Amy Vedder and Bill Weber fell in love at Swarthmore College and even got married on campus, but that’s not why they got an honorary degree at Sunday’s commencement.

It was, in fact, because they successfully helped save the Rwandan mountain gorilla from extinction, writes Susan Snyder for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The college recognized their achievement as an example of a Swarthmore education that turns out graduates with a passion to make a difference in the world.

Amy Vedder and Bill Weber at Sunday’s Swarthmore College commencement ceremony.

It was true 50 years ago when the college supported Vedder’s protest of the Vietnam War, and it’s true today.

Vedder and her husband, Bill Weber, now in their 70s, are both Swarthmore graduates who became conservationists.

She’s an ecologist. He’s a social scientist.

They combined their disciplines as far back as the 1970s, convincing a community to create the Rwanda Volcanoes National Park.

The effort led to an ecotourism site that generates $25 million a year in revenue for people to see the gorillas.

“As for the gorillas, their population has more than doubled to nearly 700 now and still climbing,” Weber told the more than 400 graduates and their family members.

Read more about Amy Vedder and husband Bill Weber, and the Rwandan mountain gorilla in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rwanda has created a Gorillagram feature on Instagram that involves tourists in the monitoring of the mountain gorillas.

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