President Emeritus Gerald W. Adelmann joined Openlands in 1980 to coordinate a special program that led to the creation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, the first federal land designation of its kind. Today, there are 62 national heritage areas based on this model throughout the United States. Inspired by this model, Jerry launched the Canal Corridor Association in 1982 to work within the heritage corridor.

In 1988, Jerry was appointed executive director of Openlands. Under his guidance, Openlands launched the 21st Century Open Space Plan, which called for expanded parklands, greenways, and trails in northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region. His leadership in creating Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie; in preserving the rare and scenic landscape at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve for public enjoyment; and many other conservation and preservation accomplishments has earned him numerous honors and conservation awards. In 2012, the Chicago Botanic Garden awarded him the prestigious Hutchinson Medal.

Jerry is the vice chair of the Center for Humans and Nature and an emeritus member of the National Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He also chairs the City of Chicago’s Nature and Wildlife Committee, and is a member of several other boards and commissions.

Jerry has been involved in conservation and historic preservation projects in China since the early 1990s. Since 2008, he has served as an international adviser to the Yangon Heritage Trust in Myanmar, advising on regional planning and sustainable development. He lectures extensively throughout the United States and abroad. Jerry has received an honorary doctorate from Lewis University and is an honorary member of the American Association of Landscape Architects.


  • B.A., Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • M. Phil., George Washington University, Washington, DC

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