Leadership Awards

The Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) is the only professional association in the United States dedicated to leaders in the nature and environmental learning center profession, including directors, managers, and senior administrators. It gives two awards annually, the ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award and the ANCA Outstanding New Leader Award, and the recipients of these awards are considered to be the most accomplished or contributory to the discipline. 

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 (or centers), as well as important contributions to the profession through professional organizations (particularly ANCA), and through the support and mentoring of other nature center leaders.

The ANCA Outstanding New Leader Award recognizes an individual with the potential for future impact within the field of nature center administrators. Qualified candidates will have less than five (5) years of full-time work experience as the director, executive director, or leader at the highest administrative level at a nature or environmental learning center.

The ANCA Nature Center Leadership Awards are presented each year at the ANCA Summit. 

Award Criteria

The ANCA Leadership Awards are not intended for volunteer leaders of nature centers, such as trustees and donors, or program staff. Current ANCA Board Members are not eligible for the awards.

ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award:

Contribution to the Profession: The successful nominee contributes to the profession through participation in and volunteer service to professional organizations and to individuals working within the profession. Community engagement, civic responsibility, networking, and mentoring should encourage alegacy of strong future leaders both within the nominee's nature center or to people from other nature centers.

Contribution to the Nominee's Center: The individual should demonstrate an ability to create and implement a vision for their center and the profession, and helped to form or to grow their center significantly. Ideal nominees will lead by example, inspire others to work creatively and collaboratively, demonstrate initiative,and promote a work environment that is respectful, collegial, supportive, and diverse.

Seniority in the Profession: Ideal nominees will have demonstrated commitment and success as a leader in nature center management over a number of years. The award is intended for individuals who have made a career commitment to nature centers and contributed to the advancement of the profession.

ANCA Outstanding New Leader Award:

Leadership: The successful nominee will demonstrate organizational leadership guiding a team of staff, board, volunteers, and community stakeholders in the success of a center and potential in the assumption of leadership roles, creativity in programming, facility development, administration, and a commitment to the profession.

Professionalism: The individual earns the respect of peers, staff, and the community. They represent the field of nature center administration with professional integrity and furthers best practices in the discipline. Ideal nominees will lead by example, inspire others to work creatively and collaboratively, demonstrate initiative, and promote a work environment that is respectful, collegial, supportive, and diverse.

Professional Development: The ideal nominee demonstrates an ongoing desire for learning and self-improvement, shares their knowledge with peers, and is active in ANCA, regionally or nationally.

Creativity: The nominee applies best practices and new skills to creative problem solving within their center.

The Nomination Process

1. Complete the ANCA Intent to Nominate Form. You will be contacted by the ANCA Executive Director with a determination of eligibility. Note: this step is now closed for 2020.

2. If invited, you will be sent the ANCA Leadership Nomination Form which is due May 15th. In recognition of the fact that many people may be deserving of the award but only one nominee will receive it, a complete nomination will remain in consideration for two consecutive years. You will be invited to update your nomination.

Share this opportunity with your staff and board!

This is a chance to bring recognition to your center, and rally your team around accomplishments. Bo Glover, recipient of the 2018 ANCA Nature Center Leadership Award, application, was nominated by his staff and board. They recognize the collective achievement of Bo's leadership and the Environmental Nature Center:

“Bo is the heart and soul of our organization, who humbly leads knowing that his job is to serve: our community, our children and the Environmental Nature Center (ENC) staff. Orange County, California is one of the most densely populated areas in the country, and for many of the children that the ENC serves, their visits to our campus is their only experience with nature. More than 27,000 children experience Nature at the ENC annually. The testimonials from the teachers whose students attend our programs is a constant reminder of the importance of the ENC’s mission and the quality of the experiences that the ENC is providing to their students."- Dan Heinfeld, ENC Board Member. 

ANCA Leadership Award Recipients


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Ken Voorhis, Retired Chief Education and Operations Officer, Yellowstone Forever / Yellowstone National Park, WY (2013-2018) & Executive Director of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, TN (1984-2013)
  • Outstanding New Leader Award: Ann Wasser, Executive Director at the Severson Dells Nature Center in Rockford, Illinois (2016-present)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Bo Glover, Executive Director of the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, CA (1991-Present)

  • Outstanding New Leader Award: Chad Truxall, Executive Director of the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach, FL (2013-Present)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Ken Finch, Director of New Canaan Nature Center in New Canaan, CT (1987-1991), Director of Glen Helen Nature Reserve in Yellow Springs, OH (1991-1993), Executive Director for Fontenelle Forest in Omaha, NE (1993-2000), Founder and President of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood in Omaha, NE (2005-2015)

  • Outstanding New Leader Award: Haley Breniser, Executive Director of Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire, MI (2013-2018)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Dick Touvell, Executive Director of Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, MI (1990-2016)

  • Outstanding New Leader Award: John Myers, Executive Director of Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, IA (2013-Present)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Dede Long, Executive Director of Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington, PA (1979-2010)

  • Outstanding New Leader Award: John DeFillipo, Executive Director of John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville, TX (2010-Present)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Carolyn Chipman Evans, Founder and Executive Director of Cibolo Nature Center & Farm in Boerne, TX (1988-Present)

  • Outstanding New Leader Award: Jason Meyer, Executive Director of the Fenner Conservancy in Lansing, MI (2010-2014)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Saul Weisberg, Executive Director and Co-Founder of North Cascades Institute in Sedro-Woolley, WA (1986-Present)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Sandy Bivens, Superintendent of Nature Centers, Metro Parks, Nashville, TN, Warner Park Nature Center, Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, Beaman Park Nature Center, Bells Bend Outdoor Center (1978-2012)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Bob Mercer, Director of Silver Lake Nature Center in Bristol, PA (1975-2015)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Bill Rose, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Nature Center in Kalamazoo, MI (1990-2018)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Pat Welch, Executive Director of Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, FL (1982-2009)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Jack Shea, Executive Director of the Teton Science Schools in Jackson, WY (1988-2013)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Rich Patterson, Director of Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, IA (1978-2013)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Gordon Maupin, Executive Director of the Wilderness Center in Wilmot, OH (1981-2014)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Tracy Kay, Executive Director of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (1997-2005)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Corky McReynolds, Director of Treehaven Field Campus in Tomahawk, WI (1975-2015)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Charity Krueger, Executive Director for Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton, OH (1982-2015)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Mike Riska, Director of the Delaware Nature Society in Hockessin, DE (1984-2011)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: Bob Thomas, Director of Loyola University, Center for Environmental Communication (1979-1996)


  • Nature Center Leadership Award: H. Lewis Batts, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Nature Center (1960-1989)


List updated April 2020.


For questions please contact the ANCA Office.