Honoring A Leader

The Conservation Leadership Awards were created in 2005 by the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society to honor the lifelong legacy of animal welfare and the worldwide conservation leadership of George Rabb, Ph.D., president emeritus of the Society.


2023 Recipients

The Conservation Leadership Awards is an exclusive dinner hosted by the Chicago Zoological Society Trustees and Women's Board to recognize individuals and organizations for their collective impact on conservation efforts that are transforming our vision of how we INSPIRE conservation action, ENGAGE our communities, and RESTORE wildlife populations and people's connection to nature.

For more than 80 years, the Society has provided a safe haven for the species of the world, and has been a destination with compelling exhibits and programs, a source for transformational conservation efforts, and an incubator for future conservation leaders. Each year, at the Conservation Leadership Awards Dinner we celebrate the achievements of those who share our vision to INSPIRE, ENGAGE, and RESTORE. This year, we celebrate the following:

Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award | The Christopher and Schueler Families

Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award | Steering Committee and Public Campaign Committee for the Vote Yes Campaignn
The Vote Yes Campaign organized for the 2022 election to encourage Cook County residents to “vote yes” on a referendum for a small property tax increase to fund projects that support clean water sources, air quality, and protect our wildlife as well as maintenance on public lands. The work of this campaign aligns perfectly with the mission of the Chicago Zoological Society and supports the work of Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the Society’s first partner in conservation. 
George B. Rabb Conservation Medal | Dr. Jan Ramer, Senior Vice President of Animal Care & Conservation at the Columbus Zoo & Aqarium and the Wilds

Dr. Ramer spent the early days of her career at Brookfield Zoo as a primate specialist before receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Wisconsin in 1995 and working as an associate veterinarian at the Indianpolis Zoo. In 2007, she achieved Diplomate status in the American College of Zoological Medicine. Then, Dr. Ramer purused her dream of working in conservation medicine as regional manager for the nonprofit Gorilla Doctors – the only organization in the world dedicated to saving the mountain and eastern lowland gorilla species one patient by providing hands-on medical care to ill and injured mountain and lowland gorillas. During her time as regional manager she led a team of dedicated veteriarians in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo for four years. She now serves on the organization’s board of directors. After her years in Africa, Dr. Ramer returned to the United States to start her work at The Wilds in 2015, first as the director of conservation medicine and now in her current position.

2022 Recipients

Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award | The Kunkler and Crown Family

Mr. William C. Kunkler III and his family are dedicated conservationists and active with Yellowstone to Yukon, an organization which conserves animal habitats and protects corridors along the 2,000-mile stretch from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon. Bill has been part the Chicago Zoological Society since 1989, and served two terms as its Board Chairman.

Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award | Polk Bros. Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation and Chicago Zoological Society share a common commitment to education. With the Foundation’s support, CZS provides a variety of classes and workshops for Chicago Public Schools teachers to develop classroom practices that support high-level student engagement in science.

George B. Rabb Conservation Medal | Dr. Patricia Majluf, Senior Scientist at Oceana, Peru

Since 1982, Dr. Majluf has directed the longest running private conservation and research program in coastal Peru, recently turning her attention to conservation issues such as assessing the impacts of El Niño and fisheries on the fur seals and other marine wildlife populations. She has almost singly led marine conservation efforts in Peru, successfully promoting the establishment of the first Marine Protected Area System in Peru and South America in 2009 and developing nationwide awareness of the large-scale ecosystemic and socio-economic impacts of the anchoveta fishery.

Rising Conservation Leader Award | Dr. Susana Cárdenas-Alayza, Director of the Punta San Juan Program

Dr. Cárdenas-Alayza is Director of the Punta San Juan Program, where she oversees year-round field monitoring, capacity building, engagement with the local community, and research. She is incredibly involved with providing aid in the aftermath of the January 2022 Repsol oil spill off the coast of Peru, where she analyzes local seabirds for evidence on the oil spill’s effects on wildlife. As a professor at the Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy and the Marine Science Master’s Program at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, she serves as a connecting point between government institutions, environmental agencies and universities.


Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award | OZINGA​
The Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award was awarded to OZINGA, a local family-run construction material company. OZINGA was selected for this award for its commitment to sustainable practices, which offer both environmental and economic benefits. Their range of products can sequester carbon dioxide; can allow water to pass through, putting rainwater back in the ground; and can absorb less heat, reducing ambient temperatures in dense urban areas. OZINGA has also been a good community steward and an important partner for Brookfield Zoo. Much of the concrete we see throughout the zoo’s campus is theirs, and as capital improvements have been made, the company has donated a percentage of the purchased concrete back to the zoo.

Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award | Edward McCormick Blair, Jr.
Mr. Blair is one of Chicago Zoological Society’s longest-serving trustees, having been elected more than 40 years ago. He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2003, and under his leadership, the Society built and opened two of its most important and engaging exhibits - Regenstein Wolf Woods and the Hamill Family Play Zoo, which was designed specifically to teach young children empathy for nature through play. Mr. Blair has also been a champion of CZS Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), the longest-running study of a wild dolphin population in the world. Today, the program conducts cutting-edge research on high-profile animals and their ecosystem, engages with the public and stakeholders through education and outreach, trains tomorrow’s conservationists, and combines these activities to achieve conservation action for dolphins in Sarasota Bay and around the world. With Mr. Blair’s support, SDRP has celebrated over 50 years of this groundbreaking research.

George B. Rabb Conservation Medal | Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., President & CEO of Chicago Zoological Society
For the past 18 years, Strahl has served as the president & CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, the private non-profit organization that operates the world-renowned Brookfield Zoo — the first Humane Certified zoo in North America. Before coming to Brookfield Zoo, Strahl oversaw the conversion of his grandparents donated 400-acre farm on the eastern shore of Maryland into one of the premier Audubon Centers in the country, and later served as vice-president of the National Audubon Society. Stuart also served as the founding president & CEO of Audubon Florida, the acknowledged public sector leader in the largest ecological restoration initiative in history — the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. At the Chicago Zoological Society, he worked to establish the groundbreaking Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare® and the Center for Conservation Leadership, as well as innovative award-winning exhibits and programs that continue to promote conservation action and leadership by forging connections between humans and animals. True to his grandparents’ Quaker values, Strahl expanded Brookfield Zoo’s inclusion and diversity initiatives and outreach programming to people with disabilities, veterans, and under-resourced communities of color.


George B. Rabb Conservation Medal | Dr.  Jon Paul Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Chair, Species Survival Commission/IUCN

Considered one of Venezuela’s most respected scientists, Dr. Rodríguez has been a champion of conservation biology for over three decades. His work to promote conservation and policy guidelines for species and ecosystems, specifically his work with the endangered yellow-shouldered parrot, has led to numerous awards, including the Whitley Fund for Nature Gold Award in 2019.  

Jon Paul Rodríguez has been working for the conservation of Venezuelan species and ecosystems since he was a biology undergraduate at Universidad Central of Venezuela (UCV) in the late eighties. With other students, he co-founded Provita in 1987, an NGO that has championed numerous evidence-based projects, including several editions of the Red Book of the Venezuelan Fauna and of the Red Book of Terrestrial Ecosystems of Venezuela. After graduating from UCV in 1991, he went to Princeton University for a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology (1999), and a Certificate on science, technology and environmental policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (2000). He currently Chairs the IUCN Species Survival Commission, is Professor at the Center for Ecology of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigations (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas ― IVIC), and continues to be active in Provita as the organization’s President. He defines himself as a biologist that is interested in generating information useful for informing conservation policies, without being a politician. Jon Paul is an author in more than 200 publications, including books, chapters, and peer-reviewed articles in major international scientific journals.

(CLAD was hosted virtually in 2020, so only a Rabb Medal was awarded.)


Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award | Disney Conservation Fund & Wildlife Conservation Network

Dr. Mark Penning, vice president of animals, science and environment for Disney Parks Experiences and Products, accepted the award on behalf of the Disney Conservation Fund, which was recognized for its work towards emission reduction, waste diversion, and water conservation. Since 1995, the organization has directed more than $75 million to save wildlife and protect the planet and inspired millions of people to take action for nature in their communities. Accepting the award for the Wildlife Conservation Network was Charles Knowles, the organization’s president and co-founder. The Wildlife Conservation Network was acknowledged for its work in protecting endangered species through its support of conservationists who ensure wildlife and people are able to coexist and thrive.

Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award | Barbara Levy Kipper
Kipper, a trustee of the Chicago Zoological Society since 2007, is a dedicated conservationist and supports a number of field programs in Africa. She was instrumental in helping to raise awareness about the world’s most trafficked mammal—the pangolin—to the Midwest by supporting efforts to bring the mammal to Brookfield Zoo. CZS, a co-founder of the North American Pangolin Consortium, has been collaborating with member institutions to establish a sustainable population of white-bellied tree pangolins under professional care to aid in better understanding their behavior and physiology and to support field conservation efforts.

George B. Rabb Conservation Medal | Dr. Colleen Begg, Co-Founder & Managing Director of the Niassa Lion Project
Begg is the co-founder and managing director of the Niassa Lion Project, for her work to conserve and protect lions and other carnivores in Mozambique. Today, Begg leads and mentors a diverse team of more than a hundred Mozambicans from a wide variety of social and educational backgrounds.


The Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award was presented to Emily and Robert King.

Mr. and Mrs. King are exemplary leaders, driving the establishment of new education, conservation, and science initiatives nationally and internationally. Through their partnership with the Society, they established the King Conservation Science Scholars program, which develops college and career-ready diverse teens whoa re prepared to resolve environmental and technological issues facing our country.

The Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award was presented to Openlands, a non-profit organization, is at the forefront of the urban conservation movement in the greater Chicago region. Since 1963, Openlands has had an emphasis on people, places, and policy. This emphasis is the framework and driving factor of the organization.

The George B. Rabb Conservation Medal was presented to Joel Sartore. Joel is an award-winning photographer, speaker, author, and contributor to National Geographic magazine. He documents endangered species and landscapes around the world and is the founder of the Photo Ark, a groundbreaking effort to document species before they disappear- and to get people to care while there's still time.


The Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award was presented to Howard B. Simpson, Life Trustee of the Chicago Zoological Society and a vital partner to Brookfield Zoo for more than 30 years. From conservation initiatives in Australia to the construction of the Seven Seas Dolphinarium, his leadership and support for the expansion of the Animal Welfare Research program has enabled CZS to develop a top-notch scientific team that is leading the field in animal welfare efforts.

The Edith Rockefeller McCormick Partnership Award was presented to the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. Kerry Luft, senior vice president for the Foundation, will accept the award on the organization’s behalf. The Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, which is dedicated to conservation leadership and wildlife research, is being honored for its commitment to securing the future of the environment through science, demonstration, education, and communication.

Clive Stockil, chairman of Lowveld Rhino Trust, is receiving the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal. Stockil, known as “one of Africa’s great conservation pioneers,” has been involved with conservation work in Zimbabwe – his native country – for more than 40 years. He was one of the initial driving forces behind protecting Africa’s endangered rhinos. In 1992, he helped to create the Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, a private reserve in the Savé Valley, Zimbabwe, which is now home to one of the largest rhino populations in Africa.


The Outstanding Conservation Philanthropy Award went to the Hamill and Bamsen Familiesfor their life-long support of animals and the environment.

The Edith Rockefeller McCormick Corporate Conservation Award was presented to Rick Waddell, chairman/CEO, on behalf of Northern Trust Bank which has been providing financial services to CZS since 1933, and philanthropic support since 1966.

The George B. Rabb Conservation Medal was presented to Alejandro Grajal, president/CEO Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Wash.


The George B. Rabb Conservation Medal went to Dr. George Archibald, for his efforts in cultivating and transforming the preservation of rare crane species and their habitats. Archibald, an award-winning conservationist, is known around the world as a leading scientific authority on cranes and achieves ways to unite people from diverse cultures and countries to work together to preserve the landscapes necessary for the survival of both the species and people. In 1973 when cranes were on the brink of extinction, Archibald, along with Cornell University colleague, Ronald Sauey, Ph.D., co-founded the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin, as the world center for the study and preservation of cranes. Today, ICF supports conservation projects for the world’s 15 species of cranes in 45 countries.

The Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award George B. Rabb Conservation Medal went to Susan Regenstein and The Regenstein Foundation. The Regenstein Family has a long and distinguished partnership with the Chicago Zoological Society. Several members of the family were governing members of the Society in the early 1920s and one was a founding trustee on the board of directors. The Society was fortunate to have the support of Joe Regenstein, Susan’s late father, whose contributions led to the opening of the The Swamp exhibit in 1994. Additionally, it was his inspired vision that guided the development and opening in 2014 of Regenstein Wolf Woods, which is home to a family of endangered Mexican gray wolves, a species that is part of a recovery program managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Cook County Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle accepted the Edith Rockefellar McCormick Partnership Award on behalf of the organization for its commitment to protect and preserve the County’s natural environments that include prairies, forests, wetlands, rivers, streams, and other landscapes as well as all of its wildlife inhabitants. Celebrating its centennial this year, the Cook County Forest Preserves is the largest forest preserves district in the United States with more than 69,000 acres. More than 40 million people visit its preserves each year to enjoy the wildlife and the abundance of outdoor recreational and educational opportunities that it offers, including hiking, fishing, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, canoeing and kayaking, birding, photography, and reflection. The land that Brookfield Zoo resides on was donated in 1919 to the County by Edith Rockefeller McCormick and since then the relationship between it and the Chicago Zoological Society has been one of the most successful of its kind.


The Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award was presented to Jerry and Sandy Manne for their longtime leadership roles at CZS and for playing an instrumental role in creating the Chicago Zoological Society CBOT Endangered Species Fund.

The Edith Rockefeller McCormick Corporate Conservation Award was presented to Nicor Gas for its commitment to energy conservation and wildlife preservation in Illinois. To help businesses save energy, Nicor Gas provides financial and technical assistance, tools, and information to help reduce operating costs and preserve the environment for future generations. Beth Reese, president of Nicor, accepted the award on behalf of the company.


The Getz family received the Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award for their lifelong commitment to conservation and sustainability, which spans four generations. The Getz family legacy dates back to 1927, seven years before Brookfield Zoo opened to the public, when the family patriarch, George Fulmer Getz, Sr., served as an early governing member and trustee. In 1933, Getz Sr. donated all 270 animals from his private zoo in Holland, Mich., to occupy Brookfield Zoo’s revolutionary new moat-and-grotto exhibits. Since then, four generations have served on the CZS board of trustees and the Getz Foundation has been a major benefactor to the Society.

Randall Wells, Ph.D., senior conservation scientist for CZS and director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (based at Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory) was the recipient of the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal. Wells, who has dedicated his life to studying dolphins, has led the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population.

Walgreen Co. was awarded the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Corporate Conservation Award on behalf of the company for its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. The company is developing a net-zero store in Evanston, Ill., which will use renewable energy from solar, wind, and geothermal sources, along with efficient refrigerators, LED lights and green building materials. Walgreen plans to extend many of these clean energy technologies to its 8,000 stores.


Barry MacLean and CZS Trustee Mary Ann MacLean received the Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award for their impact on conservation efforts.

Michael Howard, Executive Director of Eden Place received the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal for transforming an illegal dumpsite into Eden Place, a nature center in the Fuller Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Illinois Tool Works, Inc. was awarded the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Corporate Conservation Award for its impressive level of awareness of and concern for the environment.


Dennis and Connie Keller were presented with the Corwith Hamill Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award for their for their lifetime commitment to wildlife and nature. Dennis Keller has been involved with several conservation organizations, including serving on the CZS’ board of trustees. He is also the current chair of the board of trustees for the African Wildlife Foundation and board member for Mpala. Connie Keller was the past Illinois chair of the board of trustees for The Nature Conservancy.

Dr. Kate Evans, Director and founder of Elephants for Africa was awarded the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal. Founded in 2007, Elephants for Africa is a conservation and education group dedicated to finding viable solutions for elephant conservation in Botswana and southern Africa.

Exelon was presented with the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Corporate Conservation Award for its its Exelon 2020 initiative, a business and environmental strategy to reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2020.

2005-2010 RECIPIENTS

Robert Buchanan
 and Polar Bear International (PBI) or their dedication to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their habitat through research and education. PBI also provides scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to all interested parties. Under Buchanan’s leadership, PBI has grown into an organization with an international scope, supporting projects throughout the circumpolar North and reaching audiences as far away as Japan and Australia with its conservation message. Funding provided by PBI helped support research that led to the listing of polar bears as a threatened species by the U.S. government.

Richard Louv, national bestselling author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and Web of Life: Weaving the Values That Sustain Us, is co-founder and chairman of the Children & Nature Network. He has used his articles, books, and speeches to inspire a rapidly growing, national movement of parents, schools, caregivers, and communities to provide opportunities for children to play outdoors where their natural curiosity fosters a learning and appreciation of nature.

Dr. Chris Servheen, a mammalogist and wildlife biologist at The University of Montana and the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Dr. Servheen’s major research has been instrumental in grizzly bear conservation.

Dr. Curtis Freese, managing director of the Northern Great Plains (NGP) program of the World Wildlife Fund. Dr. Freese has worked to restore and conserve the biodiversity of the North American Great Plains of the United States and Canada.

Dr. Carl Safina, cofounder of The Blue Ocean Institute. Dr. Safina received the award for his life’s work and commitment to protecting the world’s oceans and marine wildlife.

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, director of the Science and Exploration Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society. A preeminent wildlife scientist, Dr. Rabinowitz is known particularly for his conservation and protection of big cats native to Asia and South America.