Yesterday the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) named a replacement for longtime president Richard Moe, who announced his pending retirement in late 2009 and left earlier this month. Scheduled to start work on July 6, Stephanie Meeks will be the eighth president of the 61-year-old organization, which was created by legislation signed by President Harry Truman.
Currently Meeks is president and CEO of Counterpart International, a nonprofit organization that offers economic-stimulus aid and governance assistance to impoverished communities. Prior to assuming that role in November 2008, Meeks held various positions over 18 years at The Nature Conservancy, including COO and acting president and CEO, and she spearheaded three comprehensive capital campaigns totaling several billion dollars.
“As I think about my career from The Nature Conservancy to Counterpart to the Trust, there’s a thread of sustainability that weaves through all three experiences,” says Meeks. Her environmentalist background—which includes board membership at the social-networking conservation group RARE—should dovetail particularly well with NTHP’s sustainability initiatives, which have largely focused on demonstration projects and educational campaigns ensuring preservation’s inclusion in federal and local sustainability policy.
For the better part of two decades Meeks and her husband have been members of NTHP. “I’ve witnessed the evolution of the organization, and its ability to continue to evolve as we think about preservation commitments and opportunities,” Meeks says of that period. She points to NTHP’s sustainability work and to the CBD-revitalization program Main Street as evidence of its increasingly holistic understanding of the historic preservation movement’s responsibilities.
In that sense, Meeks has big shoes to fill. Moe, during his 17-year presidency, defeated development of Disney’s America theme park in Virginia, which would have developed 3,000 acres near Manassas National Battlefield Park. And, especially after its 2003 auction purchase of the Farnsworth House, NTHP has backed the expansion of the preservation movement to encompass Modernist architecture. Moe’s broad perspective is best encapsulated by the buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods included in the annual watch list America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Many of those accomplishments may not have been possible had NTHP not weaned itself from congressional appropriation beginning in 1995. The group’s budget took a $7 million hit from the decision, yet by 2007 its privately funded endowment had risen to $232 million. Indeed, Meeks says that fundraising will be her primary obligation after she takes the helm of NTHP. She notes, “It’s still a tough environment, not just because of the economy but also because the philanthropy marketplace is more competitive than ever.” She relishes the challenge, observing that NTHP is the only national-level organization of its kind. “Some of my most meaningful experiences,” she adds, “have come from finalizing donor gifts in which money and values overlap.”
Editor's Note: Richard Moe did not create the Most Endangered Historic Places list, as was originally stated. The list was launched in 1988; Moe started at the Trust in 1993.