Resident Elrich “Pete” Green has never sought the spotlight, preferring instead to serve and have his actions speak for themselves. Recently, however, with a little nudging from his old alma mater, Heidelberg University, Green did find himself in the spotlight as the recipient of the school’s Outstanding Alumni Award for 2019.
When he heard the news back in May, Green reacted with shocked silence.
“My reaction was dead silence,” said Green. “It was shock. What do you say? So I said ‘thank you’ to a lot of individuals.”
Taking into consideration his long history of service throughout his life, it becomes clear why Green was chosen for the honor.
Green grew up in Ohio, the middle of seven children. Coming from such a large family, the importance of the family unit and the community they had with their local church left a lasting impression on him. His Cub Scout pack was also an early and lasting influence on him, and to this day he remains in touch with his den mother through social media.
“We lived in a rural environment so we were exposed to a lot of different cultures and a lot of creativity, but we were also exposed to the community being a giving community. My family community, the church community and the environment in the town, there were always activities going on and supportive individuals who would volunteer to do something,” said Green.
While attending Heidelberg College (now University) in the mid-1970s, Green involved himself wherever he could. He was a track student-athlete, the business manager for WHEI (college radio), he performed with the jazz band, worked in residence life and was a member of the fraternity Sigma Tau Nu, the Black Student Union and Tower Men.
Green arrived in the area following his graduation, moving first to Burlington City before settling in Burlington Township.
Since his arrival, he has remained heavily involved in his local school districts. Green served as PTA president at Captain James Lawrence Elementary School, where his presence was felt so deeply, that upon his departure, the City of Burlington Board of Education proclaimed June 11, 1990, as Pete Green Day.
Green brought his knowledge of geology from his studies in college to Young School in Burlington Township, where he became known as “the dinosaur man.” He would make regular visits to the elementary school each year with props and dinosaur bones in tow, and tell stories incorporating the names of the children in whichever class he was presenting to at the time.
In 1994, Green became a member of the Burlington Township Council, where he remains to this day.
“Service above self” is a mantra he recalls from his time in the Boy Scouts, PTA and the Rotary Club of Burlington that he has strived to embody with his work in public service.
“It brings a perspective to what we do. We don’t do anything seeking a reward, we do something because a door opens,” said Green.
According to Green, he didn’t seek out a spot on the council, it was a position he was sought out for. Joseph Foy, mayor at the time, heard about Green through Herman Costello, another former mayor, who told him Green had moved into the township and that he should get him involved.
After serving for some time on the local zoning board, Green was elected to fill the next open spot on council.
When he is not busy serving his community, Green indulges in one of his greatest passions – photography. He sports an impressive collection of around 400 cameras, ranging from vintage to more modern models.
During council meetings, he acts as an unofficial photographer, capturing any ceremonies or award proceedings.
“I love photography. I love catching things from an unsuspecting eye,” said Green.
Green has remained an active alumnus of Heidelberg University, and along with his wife, has visited the campus every year since their graduation.
His most recent visit was to accept the Outstanding Alumni Award at Alumni Weekend 2019. According to Green, his acceptance speech consisted mostly of thanking the important people in his life, many of whom were in the audience, including his large family, who ended up taking up two tables at the event.
Given his propensity for avoiding the spotlight, Green says he googled how to accept an honor of this type prior to his acceptance of the award.
“If the event is only for you, 10 to 15 minutes, if it’s an open event with other classes being honored, stick to three minutes or less and make sure you say ‘thank you,’” said Green of his findings. “I was about 2 minutes, 39 seconds.