Jane Goodall made St. Louis — and Graham Chapel — a stop on her national tour to share her ‘tenacious authenticity’ and empower us to work together on behalf of our planet.

Jane Goodall, an ethologist and world-renowned conservationist, delivered an Assembly Series lecture, “Dr. Jane Goodall: Inspiring Hope Through Action,” Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University’s Graham Chapel. (Video: Tom Malcowicz/Washington University)

“None of us can do it alone, can we?” asked Jane Goodall.

She paused. The world-renowned ethologist has never been afraid of silence.

With white hair pulled back into her characteristic ponytail, Goodall spoke without notes to a packed audience for an Assembly Series lecture, “Dr. Jane Goodall: Inspiring Hope Through Action,” in Graham Chapel. Her visit to Washington University on Oct. 9 was part of her first U.S. tour since the COVID-19 pandemic brought international travel to a halt.

“We walk through life. We have a certain path,” Goodall continued. “And there are people around us who help us along the path — who help us when we fall or falter, who pick us up and say, ‘Come on, carry on. You have it in you.’ There have been so many people in my life who have helped me along my road.”

But there was one person that Goodall wanted to single out.

“Maybe she’s listening to us in this lovely space,” Goodall said, with a glance up to the stained-glass windows. “I like to think she is.”

That person was her mother Vanne Goodall, of course, best known for accompanying 26-year-old Goodall on her first research expedition in Tanzania. Goodall recalled an even earlier moment when her mother indulged her naturally inquisitive mind.

At the beginning of her career, Jane Goodall’s mother, Vanne, accompanied the young Goodall on a research trip to Gombe. Here, they sort specimens in their tent in Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve. (Photo: JGI/ Hugo van Lawick)

Vanne was the one who looked into 4-year-old Jane’s shining eyes and chose to listen to the news that Jane urgently wanted to share — the wonderful story of how a hen lays an egg — rather than scolding young Jane for disappearing into a chicken coop for several hours to observe the miracle (the police were later called off).

It was my mother’s support, and her wisdom, that has enabled me to be who I am. A different mother might have crushed that early scientific curiosity.

Jane Goodall

Because of Vanne, the world got Jane. And because of Jane, how many others?

An army of female scientists, inspired by Goodall’s trailblazing primate research, including Washington University’s Krista MilichCrickette Sanz and Emily Wroblewski. Their students and graduate students of all genders. Thousands of children participating in Roots & Shoots, the international youth program of the Jane Goodall Institute that supports young people in more than 60 countries to create positive change in their communities. And countless others, young and old, inspired by Goodall’s message of hope.