June 21, 2022

Dennis Pilaske Earns 2022 ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award

Dennis PilaskeThe Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) is pleased to announce Dennis Pilaske as recipient of the 2022 ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award. Pilaske is an exceptional leader in the nature and environmental learning center profession, serving as Executive Director of Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) in Midland, Mich.

Pilaske’s tenure at CNC began 25 years ago when he started as Curator of Collections and Exhibits. He later assumed the role of Director of Interpretation in 2004, and in that position he continued to develop his leadership skills while supervising programming and education at the center. Pilaske became the Executive Director in January 2017, and has since supervised the staff of over 50 employees and led the organization through challenging years that included both the pandemic and two historic floods. Pilaske’s significant accomplishments as director include leading two strategic plans and a master planning process, facilitating CNC’s acquisition of 272 acres, and promoting CNC’s role in the Central Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. 

In addition to his logistical accomplishments, Pilaske has also facilitated a creative and supportive working environment for CNC staff. He has supported increased professional development, which has undoubtedly contributed to CNC’s success as an organization. He brings his own creativity to the table, too, being known for writing and performing nature-based music as part of educational programs. His guitar-playing and singing exemplifies Pilaske’s multifaceted approach to the role of leadership within the profession.

Pilaske has been active in ANCA for many years, and his involvement includes:

  • Serving on six ANCA Peer Consults since 2008
  • Coordinating numerous in-person, regional ANCA meetings in Michigan, now conducted through the ANCA Peer CONNECTS program
  • Attending six ANCA Summits, where he often facilitated programs on nature center administration
  • Participating in the Professional Leadership Institute, co-sponsored by ANCA and The Delaware Nature Society, in January 2015
  • Serving as an ANCA Mentor since 2020

Pilaske has also been active in the National Association for Interpretation and the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He has served on the board for Phoenix Community Farm in Midland, Mich., and on the steering committee for Leadership Midland, a community leadership training program.

ANCA will recognize Pilaske with this award as part of the Leader Award Ceremony on August 3rd at the 2022 ANCA Summit.

“Dennis is an exceptional leader who combines wisdom, compassion, and a strong dedication to mission. Dennis rose through the ranks at Chippewa Nature Center, succeeded a long-time director — never an easy task — and successfully grew the center and its staff with his impressive leadership skills. I am grateful to have his involvement in ANCA where he is highly regarded by his peers, and I look forward to celebrating his achievement in August.”

— Jen Levy, ANCA Executive Director


The ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award recognizes an individual who in their role at the highest administrative level of an organization has made a major contribution to the success of a nature center, as well as important contributions to the profession through professional organizations and the support of other nature center leaders. ANCA has presented this award to one individual each year since 2000.


The Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) promotes and supports best leadership and management practices for the nature and environmental learning center profession. It is the only such organization in North America and supports over 700 dues-paying members that include nature center directors, managers, senior administrators, and board members.