Founded in 1989, when John Hargrove Bowles donated 185 acres of his ancestral land to RU, Selu Conservancy was named by poet Marilou Awiakta for the mythical Cherokee “grandmother corn-spirit.” Several years later, a gift from Bowles’ cousins expanded the tract to its present 380 acres along the Little River, just outside Radford.
John Hargrove Bowles wanted to represent and exemplify the spirit of giving that the indigenous people of this area - the Cherokee nation - believed in and embodied. They used to visit the lands that are now part of the Selu Conservancy, to hunt and gather. John believed that they were the original "owners" of the land, and they passed it down through generations.
John's grandmother was given the original land by Soluste Peters, who she nursed for the last seven years of his life. Eventually the property was split. When John inherited his portion of the property he wanted to ensure that the land remained serene, undeveloped, and that its beauty could be shared by as many people as possible. John donated his acreage to the Radford University Foundation Inc., with the proviso that it become a Conservancy, and be used for the benefit of all. John did keep 10 acres for himself and built a log cabin where he eventually plans to retire. John talked to his cousins about what he had done with the land, and they decided to donate their portions of the property, to become part of the Selu Conservancy.
Radford University manages the Selu Conservancy in a manner consistent with best practices for stewardship and preservation of a natural environment, and in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The University uses the Selu Conservancy property for various classes and research projects throughout the academic year, and other groups of people utilize the facilities and resources year-round for retreats, parties, and weddings, to name just a few.