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Brook McDonald ’83 Earns Nonprofit Executive of the Year Honor

Brook McDonald ’83 Earns Nonprofit Executive of the Year Honor

By Alli Bates ’16

Brook McDonald ’83, president and CEO of The Conservation Foundation in Illinois, has been named the Nonprofit Executive of the Year by West Suburban Philanthropic Network. The award recognizes individuals, foundations and corporations for their philanthropic leadership.

Founded in 1972, The Conservation Foundation is dedicated to preserving open space, improving rivers and watersheds and promoting positive environmental activities across four counties in Illinois. The Foundation partners with 3,500 members and donors, 500 volunteers and various organizations to preserve on land preservation, watershed protection, education, sustainable development and related projects. The Foundation’s McDonald Farm is a showcase of conservation in action as the site of a water conservation and renewable energy demonstration project.

Under McDonald’s leadership since 1996, the private nonprofit land and watershed conservation group has organized successful open space referenda campaigns to raise more than $750 million to preserve 30,000 acres of land in the counties of DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will.

“Professionally, the most important thing is that I have been able to work and develop a successful career in my field of choice—conservation and the environment.  That’s what I majored in at Otterbein—life sciences—and why I attended there.  I feel very lucky to be able to pursue this career as not everyone gets to follow their passion,” said McDonald.

McDonald was named one of the top 10 most influential environmentalists in DuPage County, Illinois, by the Daily Herald newspaper. In 2010, he was named a Lincolnland Legend by the Dollars for Scholars Program in Springfield, Illinois, for being a role model for young children.

Currently, McDonald is managing a $1.5 million donation from the Hamill Family Foundation that includes land acquisition and improvement projects along the Fox River.

In the future, McDonald plans on continuing to raise money, buy and preserve land, and protect the rivers and streams. 

“As the Chicago region continues to grow and expand, we want to engage more people at the local level in meaningful and impactful conservation initiatives where they live.  This more local, community-based conservation approach will help set the stage for the next generation of conservation leaders,” said McDonald.

McDonald credits Otterbein with giving him the skills he needed to become a successful conservationist.

“I was blessed to have wonderful professors that really cared about me.  I can’t thank them enough.  The science curriculum I took was exceptional and provided a strong scientific and natural resources base that I have built on with my professional experiences. My professors had a network of professionals and employers that they shared with their students and that helped create internship and networking opportunities for us,” said McDonald.

His advice to Otterbein students is to soak it all in, remember to network, and do at least one internship. But most importantly, develop their people and social skills.

“Hard work, intelligence and dedication will take you far, but being able to understand, work with and lead people will get you even farther,” McDonald said. “That’s where you will make a greater impact on society.”