The Kalamazoo Nature Center is a nonprofit organization located in Kalamazoo, Michigan whose mission is to create relationships & experiences that welcome and inspire people to discover, enjoy, value, and care for nature. KNC envisions a resilient community where all people have strong interconnections with the natural world.
KNC was founded October 31, 1960 when a group of community leaders came together to purchase the land to establish an outdoor environmental education center. Today, KNC is recognized by its peers as one of the top nature centers in the country and has expanded to include 1,100 acres of wooded, rolling countryside five miles north of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
KNC Prepares for New Leadership
Nathan Smallwood, who has led KNC since 2018 as its President and CEO, has announced plans to step down from those roles, with a retirement date of September 1, 2023.
Nathan joined KNC as only the third leader in the organization’s history. His two predecessors had more than 50 years of service between them (H. Lewis Batts, 1960-1989 and Willard “Bill” Rose 1989-2018). While the expectations were high and the unforeseen challenges considerable, Nathan left his own legacy of responsive and innovative leadership. During his tenure KNC formulated a new mission, vision, and strategic plan that will continue the Center’s reputation as a national leader. This new strategic direction led to an institutional commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; an energy efficient renovation of the iconic Visitors Center; an ambitious climate action plan to become carbon neutral by 2035; and a change from static to dynamic, self-curated exhibits in the Visitor Center that feature more of KNC’s own work and research. Nathan also oversaw replacement of the Visitor Center’s 60-year-old dome as part of his focus on restoring key aesthetic elements of the building’s mid-century architectural legacy.
Additionally, Nathan creatively led KNC through the Covid-19 pandemic by providing a range of new programming and services to the community under difficult circumstances. On behalf of the Board, we offer Nathan our thanks and appreciation for all his contributions to our beloved Nature Center.
“It’s been an honor for me to lead our incredible staff and serve our committed members, donors and the public,” Nathan told the Board. “Yet as professionally rewarding as this work has been, it’s time for me to relocate and spend more time with my family. And I will leave here knowing that KNC’s future is brighter than ever. What we’ve achieved together will continue to benefit KNC and the community as we prepare for new leadership.”