CHICAGO (October 23, 2023) Openlands, the leading conservation organization in the Chicago metropolitan area, hosted its annual luncheon on October 17, 2023 to commemorate its 60th anniversary and pay tribute to the exceptional 35-year tenure of President and CEO, Jerry Adelmann. The event, attended by nearly 1000 influential individuals, including elected officials, community partners, and environmental leaders, celebrated the accomplishments of the organization in the region and recognized Adelmann with the 2023 Conservation Leadership Award. This luncheon raised nearly $600,000, making it our most successful fundraising event to date.
“Since our founding in 1963, Openlands has been a champion of people and nature. Jerry, you took our impact to new heights. From small pocket parks to the first National Tallgrass Prairie, we are so grateful for all you’ve done to create a web of green and blue for our region”, said Board Chair, JoAnn Seagren, who opened the event and welcomed attendees.
During the luncheon, Openlands introduced Michael Davidson as the organization’s next President and CEO. With over 25 years of experience in civic leadership, Davidson is well-equipped to guide Openlands as it continues its mission to safeguard and protect natural landscapes and green spaces in the Chicago region.
“I know how unique and special this organization is. I’ve known Openlands for many years, beginning with our work together in the mid-2000s on a coalition to find solutions to urban sprawl,” he said. “And now, coming out of philanthropy, I’ve had this bird’s eye view of the region’s nonprofit landscape. Openlands is solid in its operations, in its talented staff, in its connection with you, and in its resolve to make the environment everyone’s priority. I am greatly appreciative to be here today.”
Davidson, set to assume office in mid-November, addressed his outlook and shed light on the transition process, “You’re expecting a new leader with a different style, but with the same commitment. And so, my commitment to you, Openlanders, is straightforward and twofold: a smooth transition, one in which I learn as much as possible from Jerry, the dedicated board and staff, and all of you, so the work continues uninterrupted as we build upon 60 years of success and I’m committed to the Openlands tradition of leadership, innovation, collaboration, and optimism.”
Every year, Openlands recognizes exceptional individuals dedicated to conservation and nature in the region. This year, Adelmann received the esteemed Conservation Leadership Award. Throughout his tenure, Adelmann’s unwavering commitment to environmental preservation has ushered in tremendous achievements and made a profound impact on the success of various environmental measures in the Chicago metropolitan region that resonated across the country and the world. Adelmann was presented with a painting titled, “Quiet Night,” by renowned landscape artist, Philip Juras. This work depicts the Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, which Openlands helped save in 1969.
In his speech, Adelmann emphasized the critical significance of each program and highlighted Openlands’ track record of success. “Nature is vital for all people and the conservation movement must reflect the full diversity of our communities,” he said. “We measure our success as much by the number of lives enriched as by the number of acres saved.”
He further emphasized the organization’s commitment to tackling climate change, the rapid loss of biodiversity, and environmental injustices. Quoting Openlands’ cofounder George Overton, he concluded, “our goal is to raise the threshold of hope.”
In this vein, Openlands unveiled the Nature for All campaign, the organization’s most ambitious campaign to date to raise $22 million towards protecting land, water and wildlife. This initiative underlines the critical importance of the Chicago metropolitan area’s abundant water and land resources for its economic, cultural, and ecological future. Recognizing the growing opportunities and needs in the region, the Nature for All campaign aims to ensure the ongoing vibrancy and vitality of our region in the face of global challenges.
The Nature for All campaign has raised $20 million towards its $22 million goal. The campaign will continue until Earth Day, 2024, solidifying Openlands’ commitment to increase access to nature for people, for now, and for generations to come.