NLI Board of Trustees and Affiliations
“Perhaps nobody before us had seen the need or been able to set aside natural areas. And those that follow will no longer have the chance. They will only be able to care for what we leave them.” ~ George B. Fell
Electrical Engineer Manager, Sundstrand /UTAS (retired)
She has been fortunate to hold four uniquely different jobs in her work life, retiring as Deputy County Administrator in 2004. Highlights of her county work included coordinating the county’s Balanced Growth Initiative and the Green Communities Environmental Vision. Once retired, she consulted for two years with the county Economic Development office and then went on to create MarketWorks, a small business specializing in print marketing, photography and event planning.
In 2016 she was elected to a second term as a Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Commissioner, and she also serves as an Associate Director of the Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Judy previously served on the NLI board and is a past President. She has continued to be very involved with NLI by serving on several committees, coordinating silent auctions, and chairing the biennial Party on the Prairie fundraiser. Judy feels that the work of NLI is extremely important to the sustainability of the region.
Retired, Environmental Science Educator
Urban Planner, Gary W. Anderson Architects
Ashley is an urban planner with Gary W. Anderson Architects where she works to revitalize downtowns, redevelop historic buildings, and build community. She is also involved with many community initiatives including Transform Rockford, I Bike Rockford, IGNITE Young Professionals, and is also on the board for Jeremiah Development. She grew up in a small town near Rockford so is familiar with both rural and urban contexts for the built and natural environment. In her free time you could expect her to be biking or hiking with her husband, Jason, and dog, Kevin.
Nancy’s bio coming soon
Professor of Mathematics, Rock Valley College (retired)
Rob grew up in northeast Ohio in close proximity to several of the 18 preserves in the 23,000-acre Cleveland Metroparks System. Some of his earliest memories involve playing with friends in forests and creeks. His father introduced him to camping and nature photography, which remain passions to this day. When he moved to northern Illinois in the 90s for a teaching position at Rock Valley College, he was introduced to the Natural Land Institute.
The spring of 2002 was Rob’s first formal connection to NLI when he signed on to help establish a bluebird nest box trail at Nygren Wetland Preserve. To this day he still helps maintain and monitor that trail. Over the years, Rob has also participated in various volunteer work days, restoration projects, prescribed burns, planting and seed harvesting projects. His wife Cassie and daughter Emma have occasionally joined him in some of those activities. The natural world is very important to the entire family.
Rob feels that volunteering with NLI for two decades has kept him close to nature. He doesn’t hesitate to tell people that helping protect natural areas in northern Illinois gives him an immense sense of pride. He is honored to take that service to the next level and serve as a member of NLI’s board of trustees.
John R. Cook, III
Landscape Architect and Designer, John R. Cook Associates
John is a landscape architect who has worked with the private and public sectors for decades and brings a scope of knowledge and understanding about how a natural environment can be enjoyable and encourage healing of the mind and body.
President and Chief Investment Officer, Investors Management Group (retired)
Attorney, Ray A. Ferguson & Associates
Ray was born and raised on a farm and played out in the open when he was a child. He realized the most beautiful land for animals especially, was that which was being destroyed by development or used for recreation. He has always felt a desire to keep land as a safe place for animals and this has motivated him to support and be actively involved in an organization like Natural Land Institute that protects natural land to provide wildlife habitat. He likes the mission of NLI to preserve and protect natural areas so animals will have places they need to live.
Broker, Dickerson & Nieman Realtors
President, Specialty Screw Corporation (retired) (retired)
I was born and raised in Oakland County, Michigan. Graduated with a BS degree from Michigan State University in 1976. Upon given the opportunity from my father to start a formal Quality Control and Engineering Department at Specialty Screw Corporation, I moved to Rockford, Illinois in 1980 to begin a career in the fastener industry, and eventually, becoming president and majority owner of the family business in 1995.
I have been an active member in the Rotary Club of Rockford since 1987, a former board of trustee and treasurer at the Natural Land Institute for nine years, and a current board member of the Rockford Park District Foundation. Having lived in Michigan for over twenty five years gave me a true sense of the outdoors and the essence of land preservation and recreation. I’m a big supporter of conservation of God’s given natural resources and hold to the motto the three R’s; “Re-use, Reduce and Recycle”, and “Think Globally, Act Locally.” In my spare time I golf, tennis, swim, bike and snow ski.
It should be noted that even though I was born and raised in Michigan, I have roots in Northern Illinois where both my parents were raised on dairy farms; my father in Genoa and my mother in Hampshire. There, as a child I would visit during the holidays and an occasional summer vacation with my cousins to truly experience working on a dairy farm.
My wife, Gin, and I have been married for 38 years with three children, all in the family business and three granddaughters.
Cristobal’s bio coming soon.
Ricardo Montoya Picazo
Chief of Staff, Illinois State Representative Dave Vella
Ricardo was raised in Central Illinois and in 2015 he moved to Rockford for work. Currently, he works as the Chief of Staff for State Representative Dave Vella, Illinois 68th District. He serves in multiple Rockford community boards and advocates on issues that affect our communities of color. Outside his social and political work, Ricardo loves fishing, hiking, and wildlife.
Daniel L. Swift, M.D.
Physician, Rockford Urological Associates (retired)
Retired, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Nancy served for five years on the board and as President of the McHenry County Conservation District, and 15 years on the McHenry County Conservation Foundation and on two referendum committees, ultimately bringing $141.5 million in open space funding to McHenry County, IL.
Nancy was a recipient of the 2010 United States Department of Interior “Partners in Conservation” Award for her work with Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure and received the award again in 2012 for her role in helping establish Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. She currently serves as Board treasurer for Friends of Hackmatack NWR. She is an accomplished graphic artist/illustrator and helps many not-for-profits with free or cost effective graphic design, including interpretive signage at NLI’s Nygren Wetland Preserve.
President, Midwest Packaging and Container
Rob Young was born and raised in the country at Everbold Farm in Kirkland, Illinois and has had a curiosity and passion for the natural world from a young age. An avid outdoor adventurer, Rob has sought out natural beauty in places such as New Zealand, California, Utah, Arizona, Georgia and Virginia, but when he is home you can find him hiking along a Northern Illinois trail. Professionally, Rob is the owner and President of Midwest Packaging and Container, a tennis teaching pro at Forest City Tennis Center, and the assistant editor of FutureSox.com. Rob is a 2015-2016 alumni of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Leadership Rockford Program, a member of Next Rockford, and Vice President of the Rockford Young Professionals Meetup group.