Press Releases

For Immediate Release: Largest Gathering of Illinois’ Environmental Community Focuses On Expanding The Diversity Of People Who Experience Nature

September 20, 2016

CONTACT:  Brandon Hayes, 312-863-6260,
                   Tasha Lawson, 312-863-6277,
                   (Media inquiries only)


*** Sophia Shaw is the Conservation Leadership Award Recipient; Audrey Peterman is the Keynote Speaker***

***Dominic Kempson and Jeanine McNally are Committee Co-Chairs; The Negaunee Foundation and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. are the Emerald Sponsors***

Protected landscapes, gardens, parks, and open waterfronts that improve mental and physical health should be accessible and inviting for everyone in Chicago’s diverse metropolis. The Openlands 2016 Annual Luncheon focuses on how we can welcome more people to experience the Chicago region’s natural areas. At the luncheon, Openlands will present former President and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Sophia Shaw, with the Conservation Leadership Award in honor of her achievements cultivating the Garden as an international leader in horticulture and public engagement.

The Openlands Annual Luncheon is consistently the largest gathering of conservation-minded organizations, volunteers, and elected officials in the state of Illinois with over 900 attendees expected. It will take place at the Hilton Chicago on October 13 from 10:30am until 1:30pm. A networking reception begins at 10:30am and the lunch and program begin at noon.

Honoree Sophia Shaw retired as President and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden earlier this year. During her tenure, she generated an almost 50 percent increase in attendance, emphasizing conservation and education programs for a broad audience, including diverse and underserved communities. “One of the beliefs of the Chicago Botanic Garden is that people live better, healthier lives when they can create, care for, and enjoy gardens and places where nature can thrive, a sentiment shared by Openlands,” said Shaw. “When environmental organizations make it a goal to expand audiences—become relevant to all people—we make a crucial investment in the present and future health of the world.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Sophia’s leadership,” states Openlands President and CEO, Jerry Adelmann. “As Openlands continues to connect underserved and more diverse communities to the vital benefits of nature, the Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the gems of the region for people to visit and feel welcome.”

Keynote Speaker Audrey Peterman is a nationally recognized leader in the movement to make America’s public lands relevant to every demographic group. With her husband, she co-founded Earthwise Productions, Inc., an environmental consulting and publishing firm focused on connecting the public lands system and the American public. On touring the national parks, Peterman says, “Traveling through the park system, I get a bigger picture of what America really is. It is so much more inclusive of all the races. Everybody has contributed to the greatness of this country.”

Co-chair Dominic Kempson is Senior Principal, Sector Leader, Environmental Services, US Federal for Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience consulting in the management of water resources and natural resources impact analyses. Co-chair Jeanine McNally is a former member of the Openlands Board of Directors and a long advocate of metropolitan Chicago’s natural areas.

For tickets or more information on attending the event, please visit: or contact Jennifer Van Valkenburg at or call 312-863-6261.

Media inquiries or members of the press wishing to attend the Openlands 2016 Annual Luncheon should contact Brandon Hayes at or 312-863-6260.

Sponsors as of September 20, 2016

The Openlands 2016 Annual Luncheon Emerald Sponsors are The Negaunee Foundation and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. Platinum Sponsors are Allstate, ArcelorMittal, Shaun and Andy Block, ComEd, Connie and Tony Bischof, ITW, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McNally IV, and Northern Trust.

Gold Sponsors are Bartlett Tree Experts, BMO Harris Bank, The Boeing Company, Christy Webber Landscapes, Art Collins, Deborah Lahey, Living Habitats, J. Timothy Ritchie, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, University of Chicago, Office of Civic Engagement, U.S. Bank, Ventas and West Monroe Partners.

About Openlands

Founded in 1963, Openlands is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful metropolitan conservation organizations, having helped secure, protect, and provide public access to more than 55,000 acres of land for parks, forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, and urban gardens. For more information, please visit

About the Openlands Board

The Openlands Board of Directors comprises Jill Allread, Paul J. Anderson, J. Tyler Anthony, Gary F. Balling, Paul L. Becker, Alan M. Bell, Shaun C. Block (Honorary Director), Richard J. Carlson (Chair), Bill Clarkin, George W. Davis, Anthony T. Dean (Honorary Director) Garrett Handley Dee, Derek R.B. Douglas, Josephine F. Elting, Marshall Field, V, (Honorary Director), Dean Fischer, Hugh D. Frisbie, Jonathan C. Hamill, Mark M. Harris, Scott Jamieson, Iris Krieg, Carrie C. McNally (Secretary), Molly Meyer, Andrew Otting, Wendy J. Paulson, Steven M. Ricchio (Treasurer),  J. Timothy Ritchie, Jeffrey R. Rode, Charles Saltzman, Jo Ann M. Seagren, and Patrick Shaw.


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