One of Nolan High School’s most beloved teachers, Joe Kuban, died this morning in Arlington. He was 59.

Kuban had been battling amylotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, since 2007. His physical condition deteriorated quickly during the past year, said his brother Frank Kuban.

“Every time I’d see him there was some significant loss of function,” Frank said. “Toward the end he was unable to speak, talk, eat, hardly anything.”

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As was typical throughout his battle, Joe Kuban kept his spirits high.

“He had a very positive and good attitude despite his unbelievable physical difficulties,” his brother said. “He was a scientist and he understood how nature works and so he saw how he and his situation fit in with the overall scheme.”

Joe Kuban’s ecology studies program, established in 1974 at Nolan, was the country’s first at the high school level. He took students on regular excursions to Big Bend, the Big Thicket, Port Aransas, and the Costa Rican rainforest.

“What I hope to do is make them more appreciative of nature,” he told Fort Worth Weekly in Feb. 2007. “You flat don’t know what we’re doing to nature if you don’t get out in it and understand its great beauty and great benefit to us. That’s the inherent value in the trips.”

The family will provide details about a public ceremony later today or this week.

A lifelong musician, Kuban was able to create his swan song, “Solitario,” before his illness robbed him of his ability to play guitar and sing. The album is available at and proceeds from CD sales benefit the Big Bend Natural History Association.


  1. Joe Kuban taught a generation of young people at Nolan. But he also taught a lot of people far beyond his beloved Fort Worth school. Joe gave us all an array of invaluable lessons about how to live and cherish life, find value and joy in music and nature, and meet incredibly daunting challenges such as those he faced with indomitable courage and grace during the cruel illness that took his life. May his friends and loved ones take heart in his legacy. And a note of sincere appreciation to Jeff Prince – you shared Joe’s story with humanity, humor and heart.

  2. It so often seems that the very best among us leave us all too soon. Joe was definitely one of the best. His love and respect for this planet which makes our lives possible will live on in the many students and others with whom he shared his passion and wisdom.
    He was an outstanding example of a life of service lived deeply and compassionately. And in the way he so bravely faced and dealt with the illness which finaly ended his life, he also showed us how to die with strength and dignity. Thank you Joe, and Godspeed.

  3. I will miss the expertise and down to earth nature that exposed me, fully, to Tandy Hills Natural Area. You will be greatly missed! Thank you , Joe, for all you did.
    Fly safe, sir, fly safe

  4. Dr Kuban gave insight and inspiration to everyone that he met.
    Go loved many including all of God’s creations! You done a wonderful
    life, Dr Joe, and you can check that off your list!!

  5. Dr. Joe inspired and touched many lives, inluding my own. He is a remarkable man that will truely be missed. – Class of 2000

  6. Dr. Kuban was an inspiration to everyone. He is loved and will be greatly missed! God Bless him and his Family. Class of 1984 and 2008

  7. we will truly miss Dr Kuban and his vicacous soirit. we will truly miss him and carry his memories on. rest in peace Dr.K ladonna & the class of 95′

  8. I feel honored to have been one of his Ecology students at The University of Texas – Arlington. He was an incredible human spirit and the world was a better place with him in it……but he inspired many and will remain inside many of us in spirit.

  9. Dr. Kuban was such a supportive and inspiring teacher. Freshman year, I found out about the Costa Rica trip and he helped me through four years of tough science classes to get into Ecology so I could go on the trip. He even snuck me into his class when Jane Goodall came to speak! He always made everything fun and was so excited about what he was teaching, he made everyone love it just as much as he did. He will be so missed by everyone he met. We love you, Dr. K!

  10. No single person, other than my parents, influenced my life more than Joe. His work, his passion, and his compassion will continue on in all of the lives he touched. When I talk to students who are searching for their place in this world, I always tell them how I found mine. May god bless you Joe.
    Class of 1978

  11. I will never forget the inspiring trip to Costa Rica with Dr. Kuban and my fellow Nolan students. As a student, I was amazed by the passion and love Doc Kuban had for life and relationships. His passion gives me drive and compassion for our planet and others. His lessons in the classroom and outside the classroom have opened the eyes of many of his students and my kids will benefit from the passion for life that Joe Kuban shared with me.

    -Ryan Murray
    Nolan Class of 94

  12. Although it has been well over a decade since I set foot in his classroom and asked his advice as to college or discussed Buffett, the news of his passing brings those memories back as if they occurred yesterday.
    Dr. K – you will be missed. Sail on, sail on, Sailor.

    Alyssa Burkhart
    Class of 1995

  13. Dr. Kuban’s influence on all our lives prompted me to remember this great poem by Henry Van Dyke, “The Ship: A Parable of Immortality.”

    I am standing by the seashore.
    A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
    and starts for the blue ocean.
    She is an object of beauty and strength,
    and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud
    just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.
    Then someone at my side says :
    – ‘There she goes!

    Gone where?
    Gone from my sight – that is all.

    She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
    as she was when she left my side
    and just as able to bear her load of living freight
    to the places of destination.
    Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

    And just at the moment when someone at my side says:
    – ‘There she goes! ‘,
    there are other eyes watching her coming,
    and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
    – ‘Here she comes!’

    How joyous to those on the other side as Dr. Kuban arrives!

  14. I had the great privilege of working with Joe on the Costa Rica student programs for more than 20 years. He was an amazing mentor to all of his students in and out of the classroom, and his love of life and joy in what he did was truly inspirational. Joe was loved and will be deeply missed by myself and the staff of International Expeditions. His legacy includes generations of inspired students who will make our world a better place to live. Our thoughts and prayers are with Delane and the family and community.

  15. I am honored to have known and served as a colleague of Joe’s for six years. I have never met another whose life affected so many. His legacy will go on forever. I am all the better for knowing him.

  16. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
    Matthew 25:20-22
    Thank you Dr. Kuban for serving so many, I imagine your reward is great now. Condolences to your loving family and friends. You will be missed.

    Holly K. Bass
    UTA Grad

  17. As I sit and think about the many ways Dr. Joe Kuban influenced my life here are ones that are my favorite:
    1. I was about 4 yrs old in daycare, and Dr. Joe, (Kuban Joe acording to me at 4) came every week to teach science. Whether burning paper with a magnifying glass in the parking lot, or going fossil hunting, I remember looking forward to him coming just like it was yesterday. It was my first brush with “science’, and its been part of me ever since.

    2. It’s been 7 years since I last had class with Dr. Joe, and I still at least once a day think about little pieces of advice he gave during our class. These little “one liners” ended up being more important to my life than the subject matter the school hired him to teach! And he never seemed to run out of them… 🙂

    3. His legacy of Ecology, Biology, and Environmental Science will NEVER be lost. He could light a fire in someone that didn’t even know what he might be talking about, just because of his own passion for the subject. People were forever changed after knowing him; they didn’t even get a chance to argue before he already convinced them of the importance of any one life in its surrounding environment; former students scattered over 3 decades, 2 generations, universities, high schools, daycares, countries, states, and the countless number who will be impacted indirectly through his former students! Truly remarkable man, and impossible to describe him to people who didn’t know him!

    The character and faith of Dr. Joe Kuban is revered far more than his academic legacy, while the expression of “faithfully, living life to its fullest” never has been more evident than through this incredible man! What a blessing he is to ALL of us!

    He is now a COMPLETE perfection of God’s work, and we are one step closer to perfect because of his example! – James Stevens, Class of 2000