Cookies and Connections: Mardy Murie’s Legacy at the Teton Science Schools

Editor’s Note: In honor of the merger between Teton Science Schools and the Murie Center, Teton Science Schools’ head chef Karen Norby shares a favorite TSS recipe: Mardy Murie’s Crybaby Cookies. To add context to the recipe, board member emeritus Jean Jorgensen—first invited to serve on the board in 1977 by Mardy herself, who was then board chair—paints the picture of Mardy’s long, inspirational relationship with TSS. The merger between the two organizations continues and strengthens the connection between the Muries and TSS, a connection based on a commitment to field science education, the conservation of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and, as we explain in this blog, cookies.

Connections, by Jean Jorgensen

Just what was Mardy Muries’s connection to Teton Science Schools? While most know her as a passionate naturalist, author, vocal conservationist, and strong wilderness advocate, to many people at TSS she was much more, both during her life and during her legacy. It’s hard to capture the connection in a few sentences, but she was one of a group of friends of Ted and Joan Major who strongly supported their efforts to found the Teton Science Schools and give students educational opportunities in the outdoors. When, in the late 1960s, the Majors were offered the use of the Haines’ cabins in the woods near White Grass Ranch, Mardy was there with others, broom in hand, to sweep down cobwebs, a red bandana tied around her head.

When the school became a non-profit in 1970, Mardy served on the first board of trustees. Mardy was very well connected with the National Park Service, and, according to Ted Major, she was asked during early negotiations if she would like the newly formed non-profit center to be named the “Murie Environmental Center.” She replied that she and Olaus, her husband, didn’t believe that people’s names should be attached to mountains or institutions. At the official dedication of what was instead called the “Grand Teton Environmental Education Center” in August of 1974, Mardy cut the ribbon, assisted by Ted Major. The organization was later officially renamed Teton Science Schools; Mardy served as the chair of the board through the late 1970s.

Later on, when much of the Muries’ archival materials and specimens from their natural history trips were designated to be donated to the Smithsonian Museum, Mardy saw to it that a good portion of the collection went to the Teton Science Schools. This led to the creation of the Murie Museum, a classroom on TSS’s Kelly Campus dedicated to the Muries’ work that is still visited by students every week.

Perhaps the most profound connection was the one Mardy forged, not at the board level or with TSS’s founders, but with TSS students during their annual summer visits to her home in Moose. Mardy described these experiences with students in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Teton Science School: An Experiment that Works (1988):

I’m sure it was Ted [Major] who had the idea about bringing the six week [TSS field education] class to my house for an afternoon. In the big study, I laid out some of Olaus’s watercolors of birds and mammals, showed them how he kept his notes and data and let them browse through his photo albums. Every time, through all these years, I have watched sixteen teenagers marching up my path, and wondered if perhaps there would be one or two who were just going to be bored. But that has never happened. They listened, they looked and they asked good questions. Then on the big front porch, we have a visit and lemonade and cookies. I dare to predict that from these young folk will come some of the leaders in their home towns, their counties, their states, their country.

Cookies, by Karen Norby

In addition to sharing these cookies with TSS field education students through the years, Mardy’s Cry Baby Cookies were favorites at her annual holiday cookie swaps. The cookie swaps were cozy and fun, drawing people from all over the valley to the Murie ranch. We bake these cookies often, and we share the recipe here in honor of Mardy, the merger with the Murie Center, and all of the Teton Science Schools’ students, past, present, and future, who learn about and are inspired by the Muries.

Mardy’s Cry Baby Cookies


1 cup of sugar

1 cup Crisco shortening

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg: whisk in a small bowl

1 cup of molasses

4 cups of flour

1 cup of hot water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For the icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Canned milk


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together sugar, shortening, salt, and spices. Add the egg. Add the molasses and mix well. Gradually add the flour. Add the water and vinegar. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Cookies will be slightly soft. Place cookies on a cooling rack. While still warm, drizzle the icing over the cookies. Best enjoyed with a view of the Tetons.

Photos of Mardy Murie, all from the Murie Center archives, top to bottom: on the front porch of the Murie ranch, speaking at TSS’s dediction, with TSS staff.

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