Preserving PlaceGrowing up in Loveland, Colo., Stephanie Meeks (Engl’87) gained an early appreciation for place.
“When you wake up every day at the doorstep of the Rockies, it’s hard not to build a strong connection to landscape and surroundings,” Stephanie says.
Today, Stephanie safeguards significant places around the country as president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the nation’s premier preservation organization.
“If you care about history and culture, then our participation makes a real difference,” Stephanie says of the 65-year-old organization where she has worked since 2010.
Since graduating from CU-Boulder, Stephanie’s career has been dedicated to nonprofit causes. Following a three-year grant-writing stint at Opera Colorado, Stephanie moved to the development office at the Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest conservation organizations. After 18 years with the Nature Conservancy, including a tenure-closing position in the CEO’s chair, Stephanie jumped to the National Trust, a group with which she claimed a 20-year membership.
“The National Trust was actually the first dues-paying organization I joined as an adult,” Stephanie says.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit works to save important places and helps local preservationist groups protect historic sites, often taking direct on-the-ground action when notable spots are threatened. In 2011, her first full year at the National Trust helm, Stephanie spearheaded a strategic plan that challenged the organization to expand its impact by a factor of 10 by 2021.
“We began actively treasure hunting and putting together cross-functional teams to protect important sites across the country,” Stephanie says from her agency’s new office at the famed Watergate complex.
Among Stephanie’s earliest and most personally rewarding success stories is the creation of the Chimney Rock National Monument near Durango, Colo., in September 2012, a revered site the Ancestral Pueblo Indians called home 1,000 years ago.
“Besides being in my home state and an important sacred site for Native Americans, Chimney Rock is among the first national monuments established by President Obama,” Stephanie says.
From efforts to preserve historic Rosenwald schoolhouses to crafting new plans for the Houston Astrodome, Stephanie says the National Trust’s work not only sustains history and culture but also invigorates communities by revitalizing neighborhoods and creating new jobs, thereby linking the past to the future.
“Whether a natural or built environment, places are a touchstone for us, a way to connect with other generations and apply the lessons of history to the challenges of today,” Stephanie says.
Photography from Wikimediacommons/000jaw