After 18 Years at Chewonki, Willard Morgan Stepping Down as President, Nancy Kennedy Named Acting President

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After 18 years at Chewonki, including twelve years as President, Willard Morgan will be stepping down from his role at the end of August. Under Morgan’s leadership, Chewonki has continued its century-long tradition of nature-based education while expanding operations on and off the main campus located on Chewonki Neck in Wiscasset.

“The meaningful and joyful experience that is Chewonki for the many children and young people who join our programs throughout the year is due to Willard Morgan’s strategic vision and his leadership of an exceptional team of educators,” said Roseanne Saalfield, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Inspired by the best of Chewonki’s first century, Willard broadened the reach of our mission to include new constituencies.  We are deeply grateful to him as we wish him well on his road ahead.”

During his tenure, Morgan led Chewonki through a series of milestones and accomplishments, including:

  • Earned full accreditation in 2008, and renewal in 2018, by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges as an Independent School with two divisions, Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki and Chewonki Elementary and Middle School. (Chewonki is also fully accredited by the American Camping Association).

  • Commemorated Chewonki’s 100th Summer and Centennial Year in 2014 and 2015.

  • Developed new programs to strengthen the educational mission, including Waypoint, a six-year mentorship program, offered in collaboration with RSU1 and the Rural Futures Fund, and Chewonki Elementary and Middle School, a place-based school for midcoast families in grades 1-8.

  • Collaborated with other environmental learning centers in Maine, as ELLMS (Environmental Living and Learning for Maine Students), to fund and develop school partnerships across the state. Together the network has partially funded well over 12,000 student experiences, evaluated impacts, and pursued the goal of every middle school student in Maine having access to an immersive outdoor learning experience.

  • Oversaw the creation of a Site Master Plan to guide thoughtful long-term development of the Wiscasset campus to support outdoor learning there and on expeditions throughout Maine and Canada.

  • Led efforts to add workforce housing, both on Chewonki Neck and nearby in Wiscasset, to better attract and retain highly qualified educators.

  • Facilitated the strategic thinking and project implementation to add a challenge course, expand the farm facilities, and build the first phase of an eastside campus on Chewonki Neck for a larger and more inclusive Camp Chewonki.

  • Added considerable photovoltaic electricity production to campus and oversaw the development of a plan to decarbonize operations over the next decade.

  • Stewarded coastal properties and North Woods outposts, such as Big Eddy Campground and Fourth Debsconeag Lake Camps, to support youth expeditions statewide.

  • Doubled the annual operating budget and meaningfully increased compensation to better attract and retain excellent staff.

  • Tripled the Chewonki Annual Fund and significantly increased the endowment funds to support operations.

  • Led an effort to raise nearly $20 million over the past five years for program and staff development, growing Camp Chewonki and outdoor learning, climate and pandemic resilience, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness initiatives.

  • Strengthened a highly engaged and effective board of trustees.

  • Promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives throughout Chewonki and participated in the Maine First Light Learning Community.

  • Expanded and enhanced health and wellness services to better serve the physical and emotional needs of the constituent, faculty, and staff communities.
  • Navigated the multitude of pandemic challenges, including a long-term phased reopening process after closing campus to in-person programs for six months in 2020.
Willard Morgan, President

“When I became President, I had the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of my predecessors, Don Hudson, and Tim Ellis, to create a forward-looking vision for Chewonki,” said Morgan. “Together, as staff and board, we have strengthened our identity, programs, and organization to be a vibrant school and camp that partners with educational institutions to extend our mission. We have accomplished a lot in the past 12 years and I have learned so much that I will apply in the future to advancing education, non-profits, and other important civic causes.”

Morgan continued, “In most years (outside the pandemic), nearly 2,500 participants have a program experience based on Chewonki Neck in Wiscasset, and over 20,000 join a Traveling Natural History Program around the state. Our tens of thousands of alumni are making their communities and the environment healthier, in part inspired by their time with Chewonki. I’m endlessly impressed by and proud of our staff and what they have accomplished. I look forward to seeing what is next for Chewonki and our partners.”

Chewonki has named Nancy Kennedy, currently Senior Vice President, to the role of Acting President beginning in late August. Since joining the Chewonki team in 2015, Nancy has taken on increasing responsibility and successfully led the growth and development of several programs and initiatives, including as the leader of Camp Chewonki and the departments of Human Resources and Organizational Development.

Nancy Kennedy, Senior Vice President

Nancy participates with the Maine Youth Camping Association, is a member of the American Camp Association, has served on the curriculum committee of the National Conference of the American Camping Association, and consulted with the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute as it developed a program for girls in Maine to raise their confidence and aspirations. Nancy serves as the Chair of the Wiscasset Chamber of Commerce and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Nancy has served several Congregational Churches and was a professor at both Lynchburg College and Randolph-Macon Women’s College before returning to Maine in 2010, where she spent five years directing Wavus Camp for Girls.

Nancy Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies from the University of Maine, a Master of Divinity from Bangor Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of New Hampshire. Nancy currently lives in Newcastle, Maine, with her husband, Joe, one dog, and a cat. Her son, Nicholas, is a ‘22 graduate of Bard College.

Later this fall the Chewonki board plans to launch a competitive search process to name its next permanent President. 

Morgan will be providing transition assistance for several months following his departure. He is looking forward to spending extra time with his family, exploring the great outdoors on personal expeditions, and pursuing new professional opportunities.

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