Champions of the Chesapeake

Each year, Chesapeake Conservancy recognizes extraordinary leaders from across the Chesapeake for their significant and exemplary accomplishments that protect and restore our natural systems and cultural resources.

-President and CEO Joel Dunn

Since 2014, we have recognized numerous individuals and organizations as Champions of the Chesapeake for their dedication to the conservation and preservation of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, and deemed a national treasure.

Our Heartfelt Congratulations to the 2023 Champions of the Chesapeake!

Nethra Purushothaman

A small group of Girl Scouts, led by 14-year-old Nethra Purushothaman, challenged the Girl Scouts National Capital Council on their plans to sell hundreds of acres of forested habitat in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for development. Nethra and her friends stood up for East Marlton Forest. With some mentoring from Chesapeake Conservancy and Sierra Club of Maryland, it appears these big little heroes were victorious, and most of the land will become part of the Charles Branch Stream Valley Park.

James and Sylvia Earl

James and Sylvia Earl are long-time supporters of Chesapeake Conservancy. Their decision to leave a lasting legacy by providing a workspace for local conservation nonprofits will profoundly affect Chesapeake Conservation for generations to come. As Chesapeake Conservancy knows, one of the most difficult challenges nonprofits face is fundraising for overhead costs, such as rent. By enabling the Conservancy to acquire its own building, the Earl family gift will relieve several local nonprofits of that burden, as well as provide space for collaboration and sharing resources. Chesapeake Conservancy is forever grateful for their support of our important work.

Previous Champions of the Chesapeake


Vince Leggett

Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe

Vince Leggett is recognized for his efforts to preserve Black history and culture on the Chesapeake Bay. For 15 years, Leggett worked tirelessly to preserve Elktonia beach, a five- acre waterfront parcel on the Chesapeake Bay that is the last remnant of the original 180-acre property purchased by Fred Carr in 1902. Carr’s and Sparrow’s Beaches were privately owned and operated by Fred Carr’s daughters, Elizabeth Carr Smith and Florence Carr Sparrow. “The Beaches” (1930s-1970s), as they were called, represented the heart of entertainment throughout the mid-Atlantic region and welcomed Blacks during a time of segregation. Chief Anne Richardson has been instrumental in the return to the Rappahannock Tribe of a 465-acre sacred site at Fones Cliffs on the eastern side of the Rappahannock River. The site, known as Pissacoack, will be permanently protected by a conservation easement and used for recreation and education. Fones Cliffs is also home to bald eagle nests and has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area with global significance.


Jason Fellon, Watershed Manager,
Department of Environmental Protection

Marcus Kohl, Regional Director,
Department of Environmental Protection

National Park Service (NPS) Chesapeake Bay Office Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Doherty was presented the Champion of the Chesapeake award, in honor of his devotion, commitment and passion for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Doherty has been an incredible partner and leader in Chesapeake Bay conservation and the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership.

Doherty retired in June after 41 years with the National Park Service where he first started as a monitor of mountain goats at Glacier National Park. From there, he was executive director of the Columbia River Gorge Commission for ten years and then the chief of planning for national parks and national heritage areas in the mid-Atlantic region. Doherty served as the first director of the NPS Chesapeake Bay Office after Congress passed the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act in 1998. The legislation created the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, a network to identify, interpret, conserve and restore Chesapeake resources and connect people to the Bay.

In his 22 years of service with the Chesapeake Bay office, Doherty helped build the Gateways Network as well as the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, create hundreds of public access sites, oversee the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and much more.

“In the early years of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, Jonathan built a staff, established a working group of innovative thinkers from throughout the watershed, awarded millions of dollars in grants to Gateway projects, and established partnership agreements with more than 170 sites regionwide,” said John Reynolds, a member of the Chesapeake Conservancy’s board of directors and former deputy director of the National Park Service (retired), who presented the award on behalf of Chesapeake Conservancy.


Chesapeake Conservancy was thrilled to honor the past and current members of Chesapeake Bay Commission in coordination with their Winter Meeting as our 6th Annual Champion of the Chesapeake.

The event took place on November 7, 2019 at the National Aquarium in Balitmore, Maryland.

The 2019 Public Service Award was received by Chesapeake Bay Commission Leadership – Senator Guy Guzzone (MD), Senator Gene Yaw (PA), and Delegate David Bulova (VA).

The 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award was received by Ann P. Swanson, Executive Director

Keynote Address was made by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen

Presenter Remarks made by U.S. Representative Bobby Scott and

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones

The event was held on:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

National Aquarium

501 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202


Gene Yaw, Senate of Pennsylvania (R-23)

Senator Gene Yaw was elected to represent the 23rd Senatorial District in November 2008. He Chairs the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee and is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee. He is also a member of the Judiciary, Law & Justice; Agriculture & Rural Affairs; and Banking & Insurance Committees. Yaw served as Lycoming County solicitor for 17 years and as general counsel to the Pennsylvania College of Technology for more than 20 years. He now serves on its Board of Directors and is Chair of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Yaw is “Of Counsel” with the McCormick Lawn Firm in Williamsport and is a member of the Lycoming Law Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association and Pennsylvania Association for Justice. A U.S. Army veteran, he earned degrees from Lycoming College and the American University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

David L. Bulova, Virginia House of Delegates (D-37)

David Bulova has represented the 37th District of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2006. The 37th District includes the City of Fairfax and portions of western Fairfax County. In the House, he serves on the General Laws; Agriculture; Chesapeake and Natural Resources; and Education Committees, as well as the State Water Commission, Housing Commission, Joint Commission on Health Care and the Virginia War Memorial Board. He also serves as the Governor’s appointee to the Legislative Advisory Council to the Southern Region Education Board and the Legislative Advisory Board to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center. Professionally, Delegate Bulova works as a Project Manager and Senior Environmental Planner for Wood, PLC. His primary areas of expertise include MS4 Phase I and Phase II permit planning and implementation, NPDES stormwater industrial permit implementation, watershed planning, and stormwater funding feasibility studies and utility implementation.

Guy J. Guzzone, Senate of Maryland (D-13)

Senator Guy Guzzone was elected to the Maryland Senate in 2014, after serving in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2015. He currently serves as Senate Majority Leader. He is also a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Chair of its Health and Human Resources Subcommittee, and additionally a member of both its Capital Budget and Pensions Subcommittees. Other current committee assignments include Rules, Legislative Policy, Spending Affordability, and Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. Prior his legislative service, he spent eight years on the Howard County Council, including serving as its Chair. Senator Guzzone is also the former State Director of the Sierra Club and has served as a trustee of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and as a commissioner of the Maryland Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Commission.

Ann Swanson, Executive Director

Ann Swanson has served as a leader in the Bay restoration for 36 years, the last 31 as the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative authority serving the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It is the Commission’s responsibility to sponsor legislation at the state level and to work with state legislators, members of the U.S. Congress, and the federal and state regulatory agencies to coordinate programs aimed at restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

Although Ann operates in a highly political environment, she is trained in the sciences. A trained wildlife biologist and forest ecologist, she graduated with honors from the University of Vermont and Yale University. She holds an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Vermont.

Ann has been recognized regionally, nationally and internationally for her work. She delivered a keynote address at the Stockholm Water Festival, chaired the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources for 11 years, and has been recognized with awards by her colleagues in the Bay watershed, the governors of the region and the General Assemblies of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.



Thank you to our generous sponsors for their support of this event!

For more information about how you can sponsor this invite-only event in the future,

please contact [email protected] or Melissa Ehrenreich at (443) 482-9083.


Champions of the Chesapeake 2018 took place on November 1, 2018 at Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC.


View remarks from the President at the event


In 2018 we honored:

Accepted by Kristin Thomasgard-Spence

Accepted by Larry Selzer

Accepted by Nick Dilks

The Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program for its creative approach to conserve habitat and biodiversity across a 385,000-mile corridor in the Chesapeake.

Watch a video featuring some of the work of the REPI program.

The Conservation Fund for its signature commitment to conserve naturally and culturally important land across the Chesapeake and along the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.

Watch a video featuring some of the work of the Conservation Fund.

Ecosystem Investment Partners for their leadership to create new models of working capacity to finance results-focused restoration and conservation here in the Chesapeake.

Watch a video featuring some of the work of Ecosystem Investment Partners.


Recognition of Superintendent Chuck Hunt from National Park Service, Chesapeake Bay Office for his years of work and dedication to the Chesapeake. We wish him luck in his new assignment as Superintendent of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.




See photos from Champions 2018


The 2017 Champions of the Chesapeake was held on October 15, 2017 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Watch videos featuring each of the award winner’s Chesapeake achievements.

In 2017 we honored:

Public Service Champions

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
(accepted by his wife, Dorothy McAuliffe)


Philanthropic Champion

Corporate Champion

Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, accepted by Sarah Miller Coulson

Microsoft Corporation, accepted by Fred Humphries


Our Third Annual Champions of the Chesapeake Awards Dinner was held on October 4, 2016. This annual awards dinner is a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of the Chesapeake’s biggest advocates, where we recognize the public servants, corporations, individual philanthropists, and the next generation of conservationists who support the Conservancy’s work and have dedicated their careers to the Chesapeake Bay.

Read Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn’s remarks from the evening


In 2016 we honored:


Public Servant Champions


The Honorable Paul S. Sarbanes,
former U.S. Senator of Maryland

 The Honorable John W. Warner,
former U.S. Senator of Virginia


Philanthropic Champion

Corporate Champion

Next Generation Champion

Mt. Cuba Center,

accepted by Ann C. Rose, President



Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI),

accepted by Matt Liddle, Mid-Atlantic Manager for Outdoor Programs and Outreach


dsc_1598Kim Hernandez Grubert,

NOAA Coastal Management Fellow at Maryland Department of Natural Resources


Our sincere gratitude to our 2016 sponsors

Chesapeake Sponsors

Media Sponsor

Rachel Carson Sponsors

Beveridge and Diamond, PC

Brown Advisory

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Melvin & Ryna Cohen Family Foundation, Inc.

Stephen F. Harper

Hogan Lovells, LLP

Great Rivers Sponsors

Annapolis Towne Centre

Hamel Builders, Inc.

Keith Campbell Foundation

Mohawk Fine Papers, Inc.

John & Sue Neely

Red Leaf Dairy Corner

Richard Scobey & Bruce Ragsdale

Shore Bancshares, Inc.

Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

In-Kind Sponsors

Chesapeake Light Craft

Paula Degen

District Photo

Four Rivers Garden Club of Annapolis

Paul Lockhart

Tray Inc., Eric Swanson

Additional Sponsors


Chesapeake Contracting Group

The Conservation Fund

Geo-Technology Associates, Inc.

The Martin Architectural Group

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Willow Oak Group



Thank you for joining us for our inaugural Champions of the Chesapeake dinner and awards ceremony


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In 2014 we honored:


Public Service Champion:

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski, U.S. Senator

(accepted by Linda Prochaska)


Individual Champion:

Keith Campbell


Corporate Champion:

Skyline Technologies Solutions


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Senator Barbara Mikulski met with Maryland National Guard leadership at the 5th Regiment Armory, Baltimore, Md., on April 23, 2014. Mikulski backs the formation of a national commission on future Army Force Structure. The senator toured the Maryland National Guard headquarters, and met with Maj. Gen. James Adkins, the adjutant general of Maryland; Brig. Gen. Allyson Solomon, assistant adjutant general – Air; and Brig. Gen. Linda Singh, commander Maryland Army National Guard. “We want you to know that you’re needed, that you’re valued, and that you’re respected,” said Mikulski. “We’re going to make sure that the people that wear green eye shades (finance) respect the people who wear the green uniform.” (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thaddeus Harrington, Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office.)


(Photo by Staff Sgt. Thaddeus Harrington, Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office.)





Second Annual Champions of the Chesapeake


Thank you for joining us at our second annual Champions of the Chesapeake Dinner and Awards Ceremony



In 2015 we honored:


Public Service Champion: 

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis


Individual Champion: 

Dr. Mamie Parker


Corporate Champion:



Our sincere gratitude to our sponsors who made Champions of the Chesapeake possible

                                                       Michael D. and Ann Hankin

Additional Event Sponsors

Annapolis Towne Centre | Stephen F. Harper | Red Leaf Dairy Corner

Shorebanc Shares, Inc. | BB&T | Cherry Bekaert, LLP | Chesapeake Contracting Group

Geo-Technology Associates, Inc. | Margaret and Edward Jackson

Martin Architectural Group | Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Reliable Contracting Company, Inc. | Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. | Verna Harrison Associates, LLP

Stephenson Pope Babcock Foundation | National Parks Conservation Association

Ecosystem Investment Partners | Mohawk Paper | Central National-Gottesman Foundation

Hogan Lovells

Table Sponsors

Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment

The Conservation Fund

Bob and Chris Friend

Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds

In Kind Sponsors

Annapolis Tours by Watermark | District Photo, Inc.

Tray, Inc., Eric Swanson | World Class Flowers