NJ AUDUBON SOCIETY ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING
The 2021 Annual Meeting of Members will take place virtually on October 26, 2021 at 12 pm. It is easier than ever to participate in this important annual 30 minute meeting.
1. Welcome and Introductions – Eric Stiles, President and CEO
2. Meeting Call to Order – Ashley Rey, Board Chair
a. Determine Quorum – (35 members needed for quorum)
3. Board Chair’s Report – Ashley Rey
4. President’s Report – Eric Stiles
5. Nominating & Governance Committee’s Report — Diane Louie, Committee Chair
I. Nomination and Election of Slate of Candidates to the Board of Directors
As proposed by the Nominating & Governance Committee and approved by the Board of Directors:
All terms begin January 1, 2022 and are for three years
a. 1st term
Kathy Horn, Nelson Martinez, Veda Truesdale, Michael Van Wagner
b. 2nd term
c. 3rd term
Ann Lawrence, Meredith Mueller-Bolton, Dana Pogorzelski
(Ask for Motion and Second; Vote)
II. Recognition of Graduating Board Member
6. Other business – Eric Stiles
7. Meeting adjourned – Ashley Rey
BOARD MEMBER BIOGRAPHIES
After many years of being a member, I started volunteering for NJ Audubon as an Associate Naturalist about 12 years ago. Volunteering does at least as much good for me as it does NJ Audubon because I take great joy in seeing people’s eyes light up the first time they see a Sora in a scope or find out that the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet lays up to 12 eggs or that the peeping sound overhead is a Bald Eagle. This sense of doing something useful has never been more acute than over these last 18 months as more and more of the people showing up on our walks are brand new birders, seeking solace in nature and relief from pandemic anxiety.
During my career in healthcare epidemiology and infection prevention, I had the opportunity to serve on numerous boards; I know that good things can be accomplished when like-minded individuals with good intentions work together on complex problems. NJ Audubon has a track record of important work advocating for conservation, influencing legislation, and providing education throughout the state. I look forward to joining in those efforts.
As an immigrant to this wonderful nation of ours, I have experienced the shock and disruption a person can feel–in my case, as a young man of 12 years–when you find yourself in a whole new country. At first, nothing feels the same. It is disorienting, and for a child, it can be terrifying. But, for those of us who love nature, the shock can be less harmful, and frankly, it can also be empowering. At least, that was my experience. Having spent a good deal of time out and about in some of the wonderful natural areas of Colombia and Venezuela during my childhood, I sought nature almost from the moment I arrived in what became my beloved and permanent home: New Jersey.
My love for the environment and wildlife of our Garden State started on the Passaic River. For most of my young adult years, I fished and explored its shoreline at various places in Paterson. (Many years later, I found myself in a sort of a home-coming when our family moved to Mendham, the source of the Passaic River.) Back then, I knew little about the Passaic’s sorry environmental condition. When I began to learn about how we had mistreated the Passaic and many of our state’s natural places, I made a commitment to make a positive impact somehow.
For that reason, during the last 20 years, either as an individual or through our family’s various businesses, I looked for ways to work with and assist NJ Audubon, mainly through a communications and messaging focus.
How many Nelsons are out there? Perhaps millions–who should be invited to participate in loving, caring for, and enjoying the state’s many natural habitats. As a NJ Audubon Board member, I look forward to working with the organization to expand its outreach and to energize its efforts to engage with as many people as possible, throughout every corner of New Jersey.
My love of nature began with a flying animal that is not a bird. I spent my early childhood years in Hibernia, New Jersey, home of the bat caves. On summer nights, I often watched in awe as thousands of bats flew out of the abandoned mines. I learned to swim in the many small lakes in the area, and I spent many afternoons collecting crayfish in the tiny brook that ran behind the Board of Education building. My family was one of the only African American families in the area. Though we loved to take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounded us, on more than one occasion we were made to feel unwelcome enjoying the outdoors in our own community.
My interest in protecting and expanding access to these areas propelled me to graduate studies at the Yale School of the Environment and then on to positions with the NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection and Rutgers University. I had the opportunity to work with communities throughout the state on issues ranging from municipal land use planning to climate policy, coastal access and resiliency, and environmental justice.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to NJ Audubon, and I was excited by NJ Audubon’s efforts to enhance access to nature for all. As a NJ Audubon Board member, I would like to help expand upon these efforts and identify more opportunities to connect people from all parts of the state to healthy and thriving natural spaces.
Michael (“Mike”) Van Wagner
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love of birds and the natural world. While I have always been generally familiar with NJ Audubon, several years ago I began to gain a real understanding and appreciation of NJ Audubon’s mission and work through a new friendship with Eric Stiles, its President and CEO. We had gotten to know one another as board members of another terrific not-for-profit organization, Lead NJ, which provides leadership training and civic engagement in the state.
Today, I could not be more excited to serve on the NJ Audubon Board. My professional background includes work in government relations, communications, marketing, and corporate giving; I hope to draw upon this experience to help advance the vital efforts of NJ Audubon. I also look forward to serving as an ambassador for the organization, especially in the Trenton area where I reside. From a personal standpoint, I am really looking forward to taking advantage of NJ Audubon’s many programs and resources to deepen my understanding, enjoyment, support, and celebration of New Jersey’s avian and larger natural wonders.
Joseph (“Joe”) Basralian
I am the President of a law firm in northern New Jersey. As an attorney, I specialize in commercial real estate, including acquisition, land use planning, financing, and development. I also represent financial institutions in commercial lending.
I have served on the Board of NJ Audubon since 2018, and I am deeply committed to its mission of connecting all people to nature. My wife and I enjoy visiting NJ Audubon’s Lorrimer Sanctuary, located in my hometown of Franklin Lakes in Bergen County. I am passionate about healthy forests and aware of the harmful impacts of overabundant deer. I volunteered my legal services to NJ Audubon to obtain a municipal variance required for a deer fence at Lorrimer. I am also a Co-Trustee of the Winifred M. and George P. Pitkin Foundation, which is supporting a major renovation of the Lorrimer Sanctuary, including the creation of an educational center. I have been on the board of several other not-for-profit organizations, including the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Bergen Community College Foundation.
I consider myself an active backyard birder; I especially look forward to the annual arrival of the Pine Siskins.
Fort Worth, Texas, was my home, and it was 13 years before I left it for the first time. Seeing birds–wherever I happen to be–has been part of every trip and every time I sit on the deck at our current home in Flemington, New Jersey or at our condo in Captiva, Florida, an area known for its birding. My interest in ecology and birds was inspired by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. When I was attending junior college in Nebraska, there was an excellent science professor who sent us bird watching. After graduating from college in Abilene, I drove directly through Texas to Corpus Christi for my first job teaching high school English and History. (Birders know it as a place to see Sandhill Cranes and Great Blue Herons.)
After a teaching job near Loveland, Colorado, at the start of the Great Plains (home of the Prairie Chicken), I took a position in New Jersey where I have lived ever since. New Jersey is also where I met my husband, Paul, who grew up in Wycoff. I had various positions in northern New Jersey, including Superintendent in Saddle Brook and later the NJ Dept. of Education, before we entered semi-retirement, providing professional development training, primarily in mathematics. The 10-month academic schedule and later, retirement, allowed us to visit a large part of the world except Asia. These experiences have often included birding, particularly in Scotland, France, northern United Kingdom, Africa, and the Amazon.
Our first significant interaction with NJ Audubon personnel was when we entered retirement full-time and purchased a 55-acre property in Hunterdon County. We wanted to make the farm as environmentally sound and organic as possible. I had been a NJ Audubon member for several years, so I knew they could advise us. We raise a big garden and have cattle and chickens. We always have herons–who spend their summer on our pond–and a great variety of birds that move in and out. Now, we hope to leave the farm as open space: when we are gone, we want it to still be as “wild” as possible.
As a child, I loved summers at our family cottage in upstate New York, exploring the woods around the lake and discovering the local flora and fauna. When I was a young woman, someone gave me a set of tapes called Birding by Ear. A novel concept! I was instantly hooked, and birding took center stage in my natural pursuits.
A few years later, when I moved to Basking Ridge and discovered NJ Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, I seized the opportunity to develop my own conservation ethic. I left my job on Wall Street and became a front-desk volunteer and later an Associate Naturalist. Under the tutelage of Rich [former Vice President of Conservation and Stewardship] and Pat Kane [environmental educator and volunteer] and Mike Anderson [Sanctuary Director], my admiration for NJ Audubon as a premier conservation organization took hold.
Life took some unexpected turns, and I moved away from Scherman Hoffman to Little Egg Harbor. But on the Cape May hawk watch platform one Fall Weekend, I reconnected with NJ Audubon friends. I was honored to be asked to join the Board in 2015, and I presently serve as the Chair of the Audit Committee.
I’ve known about NJ Audubon since I was quite young as my parents were members going back to the 1980’s. I’ve cared deeply about nature in New Jersey since I grew up adventuring through the woods of Essex and Morris County in the 1960’s.
Eric Stiles [President and CEO] and Isobel Wayrick, former Board Chair, both had a fantastic sense of timing bringing me into the organization; they always managed to reach out to me on those days when I had just made decisions to close other chapters of my working life. This led to volunteering and ultimately a Board opportunity. I joined the Board because I believe in the efficiency, effectiveness, and friendliness of NJ Audubon. I bring experience with both community volunteer positions in literacy, civic engagement, and culture; and a lifetime working on data analysis and best practice implementation in marketing research organizations like Nielsen.
I’ve been Treasurer for the past 3 years, and I also serve on the Audit and Communications Committees. I enjoy working with Board members and staff to make sure the organization is on financially sound footing and that it uses available information/tools to drive deliberate decision-making. I’m very proud of the way NJ Audubon managed–and managed to thrive– during the extreme challenges of the pandemic. I’m interested in efforts NJ Audubon takes to evolve to meet the changing needs of the people and the environment in the state.
Although I focus on the organizational side of NJ Audubon in my Board committee work, my personal passion is native plants. I spend many hours gardening for wildlife and was glad to graduate from the recent online course on the subject offered by NJ Audubon naturalists via Zoom during the pandemic. I’m still working on my meager birding skills but I’m doing well at providing food and habitat for the backyard birds–even if I can’t always identify them.
I’ve had a life-long passion for nature and stewardship, benefiting from hands-on environmental education in the public schools of New Jersey. After graduating from Vassar College where I studied economics and environmental science, I volunteered on the NJ Audubon Board’s Conservation [former “Education”] Committee, which complemented my career as a financial planner. Soon after, I joined the Board. During my 10 years of service, I’ve served on the Finance, Conservation, Development, Communications, and Executive Committees, including several years as Treasurer, Vice Chair, and most recently, Chair.
Working in partnership with NJ Audubon’s staff and volunteers to help steward the nature of today for all people of tomorrow–while steering the organization towards being a more welcoming place for all to connect with nature–has truly been an honor and a privilege. The people of NJ Audubon are the backbone of the organization, and I am forever grateful for the caliber of individuals I’ve been able to collaborate with over the years. During the unprecedented times of the pandemic, we decided not to pause, but instead lean into our mission: This is something I will always look back on with pride. We developed NJ Audubon’s COVID-19 Response Plan, which not only guided us through the darkest days of the pandemic, but also made us a stronger organization. Although I will be rotating off the Board at the end of the calendar year, I will always be a part of the NJ Audubon family.