Meet Alumnus, Doug Roberts ‘82
Doug Roberts, an ‘82 forestry graduate, is the owner of Coal Freight Forwarding. He is a private landowner that values land stewardship and has implemented a conservation easement on his own property. Roberts supports the advancement of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment and has contributed to its development in many ways, with his favorite having been his gift to the Emmett F. Thompson Deanship, established in 2021 by Thompson’s children Chuck, Meri and Juli. Roberts’ unique career path and success shows how CFWE graduates are well prepared for the workforce with relevant experience and knowledge within and beyond their degree.
Why did you choose to attend Auburn?
I grew up in a small town in rural Alabama and knew that I wanted to stay in the state for my education.
What led you to choose forestry as your major?
I chose to study forestry because Auburn’s program was recommended by friends working in the industry, and because I knew that forestry was well established in the south where I planned to continue my career.
How did CFWE prepare you for your career? How did your forestry degree lead to your career in the coal industry?
There was a large focus on business education in my studies and our professors discussed real assets in class. That real life application was very valuable, and I still use that foundation of knowledge today. Earning my bachelor’s in forestry led to a sales position with Thompson Tractor Company, and I ended up buying my company, Coal Freight Forwarding, from a customer I met through my work there.
What drives your passion for hunting, wildlife and conservation?
The stewardship aspect of conservation is very important to me. For my property, I believe in the principle of “leave it better than you found it,” especially for the benefit of my family’s enjoyment of the outdoors, which is why I have implemented a conservation easement. This practice establishes a long-term plan for the property that will live beyond my influence.
What motivated you to support the CFWE? What are your most meaningful gifts and why? Why is staying involved and in touch with CFWE valuable to you?
During my time as a student, professor Emmett Thompson, head of the Department of Forestry, which was then part of the School of Agriculture, made a big impression on me. He had a clear passion for our education and the goal of establishing the department as a school. This goal was reached in 1984 when the department became the School of Forestry. Because of Thompson’s impact, I feel that my most meaningful gift was my contribution to the Emmett F. Thompson Deanship. As an alumnus, it is important to me to give back to the college and it has been great to see the department that I graduated from grow into the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment.
What is your favorite memory from your time at CFWE; was there a professor or faculty member that had a great influence/impact on you during your time in the college?
The class of ’82 was the first group of students to attend summer practicum at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center. I really enjoyed that experience, especially meeting Mr. and Mrs. Dixon upon our arrival. It was fun to see their enthusiasm for the development of their property into an educational opportunity for future foresters at the university. My favorite professor was Dr. Everett Johnson who taught forest statistics.
What is your favorite thing about being an CFWE alum?
My forestry degree and alumni status are important to me because this knowledge of forest management has only gotten more valuable as the world has become increasingly aware of the role nature plays in our lives.
Do you have any advice for students entering the work force right now?
Don’t be afraid to accept new challenges even if it means changing jobs. I had no idea where I would be today when I graduated, and that acceptance of risk worked out very well for my career.
Interview is lightly edited for clarity.
(Written by Avanelle Elmore)