We’re so pleased to have welcomed two new faces to our Board of Trustees! It’s our pleasure to introduce Dr. Mimi Cowan and Alvin Gates, who joined our Board and attended their first meeting at the end of February.
Dr. Mimi Cowan
Having grown up in and now residing in Naperville as an adult, Dr. Mimi Cowan has known of The Conservation Foundation for decades, but during her service to the Will County Board and as a Forest Preserve Commissioner she’s become very connected to our mission.
Mimi has extensive experience in the environmental and political realms, having recently worked as Chief of Staff for an Illinois State Senator, serving in the aforementioned elected official roles, and providing independent campaign consulting services to help organizations throughout the Chicago Metro area with campaign strategy, communications, budgeting and event management. “I love that The Conservation Foundation is a regional organization,” says Mimi. “We work best when we work together! I’m hoping I can add to The Conservation Foundation’s connections in Will County, and with my experience in politics and communications I’d love to be involved in any referenda campaigns that arise.”
While life has circled back to where it began for Mimi and she is lending her time and expertise to causes close to her roots, she is a worldly soul! She holds a B.S. in Music and Communications from North Central College right here in Naperville, but her graduate work took her abroad where she earned a M.A. in Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland. She returned stateside to complete a PhD in American History at Boston College, and spent several years as a History Professor at Lake Forest College and back at her alma mater North Central College.
This regard for history and her love of nature combined draw Mimi particularly to the restored natural areas of our region. “Having served as a Forest Preserve Commissioner in Will County I’ve had an opportunity to learn first-hand how fortunate we are to have so many amazing natural spaces in Illinois,” Mimi reflected. “One of my favorites in Naperville is Springbrook Prairie. I love that we can go to a place that looks just like it did 200 years ago, right in the middle of Naperville.” Mimi is also very fond of her annual porch garden and loves picking tomatoes and other produce at our McDonald Farm.
Alvin Gates of Lisle is currently the IT Manager at Relativity in Chicago, helping to manage large volumes of data and keep client information secure. Alvin has held similar positions with several area corporations, including DeVry University, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Vitas Innovative Hospice Care and Griffith Foods. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management from DeVry University. As an Information Technology professional, Alvin spends a fair amount of time behind a screen, but his appreciation for the natural world is perhaps magnified because of it. He first became acquainted with The Conservation Foundation through his neighbor and now fellow Trustee, Jeanette Press.
Alvin is a familiar face at our McDonald Farm headquarters thanks to his volunteer service as our Bluebird Monitor at McDonald Farm the last couple of years. While he was working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, he found spending his lunch hour checking on the 20 or so bird boxes on the Bluebird Trail at McDonald Farm was a welcome respite from screen time and the isolation of his four walls. As a young boy, Alvin was a member of the World Wildlife Fund and the animals he read about in those magazines sparked aspirations of being a zoologist. His professional life took a different path, but he’s found glimpses of fulfilling that long ago dream through his work at McDonald Farm. “Fast forward to the present day,” says Alvin, “and I feel like I’ve recaptured that love of nature, a void that technology can’t fill. The world owes a lot to organizations like The Conservation Foundation, who make it a priority for things I take for granted, like preserving land and protecting rivers and streams. I’m excited that with my expertise and experience, I can help advance that mission for nature from a technological perspective.”
Our Green Earth Harvest program is also of particular interest to Alvin, who is very passionate about nutrition and healthy, sustainably grown food. He is well known as a connoisseur of bourbon, enjoys Olympic weightlifting, reading, DJing, is honing a newfound interest in drone flying, and loves to bike and hike on both our local trails and when travelling. Alvin and his wife of 26 years are immensely proud of their adult son and daughter, both of whom live out of state.