The Bee Whisperers
Bill Tomaszewski '82
Debra Tomaszewski '83, '91 MA
They call him the bee whisperer. When Google wanted to start a beekeeping club on its Mountain View, California, campus, it made Bill Tomaszewski ’82 its official beekeeper.
Bill and his wife, Debra ’83, ’91 MA, took up beekeeping after moving to the San Francisco area in 2000 shortly before the world’s bee population began to plummet from colony collapse disorder.
Today, the couple – through their Marin Bee Company and Planet Bee Foundation – is on a mission to save the world, one bee at a time.
They founded Marin Bee Company in 2009 to support backyard beekeepers, raise awareness of the plight of the honeybees and help to preserve the world’s food supply, a third of which is pollinated by bees.
After graduating from Montclair State with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bill served as a Jersey City police officer for 20 years before earning a law degree. “For the last 10 years, my ‘day job’ has been being the general counsel for wine.com, even as I work to educate students and adults about the importance of beekeeping,” the Planet Bee Foundation board president says.
Debra, a fine arts and art education major, also received a master’s degree in fine arts from the University and taught art in several New Jersey school districts before moving to California.
“I still love my art – fine art photography – and do it on the side, but my full attention is now on the company and directing the foundation’s education programs,” she says.
Formerly the environmental stewardship arm of the company, the foundation recently became a nonprofit.
“So far, our educational programs and workshops have reached about 3,000 people in schools, libraries and environmental centers, nonprofits and other organizations,” she says. “We also work with wineries.”
“I’ve been able to create my own educational program with Planet Bee Foundation, working with people of all ages and all walks of life,” she says.
She takes particular pride in the internships they offer to San Francisco State University biology students, who teach about honeybees in foundation partner schools.
Bill’s work with bee clients like Google has expanded to other corporate settings. “Some are on the ground around buildings and some in downtown San Francisco are on rooftops,”
he says. “It’s a great way to increase our exposure and spread our message.”
While company and foundation efforts are currently concentrated in northern California, Bill says they are looking to expand the program – maybe even to their home state of New Jersey. The Tomaszewskis themselves have already branched out to develop Marin Bee Pure Honey Skincare, an all-natural, honey-based skincare line. “A portion of the profits go to the foundation to ensure its growth and success,” Debra says.