Mark McKnight, Reflection Riding President, Receives 2021 ANCA Outstanding New Leader Award
Monday, May 24, 2021
The Association of Nature Center Administrators has just announced Mark McKnight, president and CEO of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, as the recipient of the 2021 ANCA Outstanding New Leader Award. This award recognizes an individual who demonstrates leadership, professionalism, professional development and creativity within the field of nature and environmental learning centers.
Mr. McKnight joined Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center as president/CEO in 2017, and he has led the organization to more strongly connect with its community.
In the three years prior to McKnight’s arrival, Reflection Riding’s revenue had dropped by nearly half, the board of directors was shrinking in size and the organization was still composed of two separate organizations.
“Mark has been an advocate for the outdoors and our natural resources for many years,” said Santosh Sankar, board chair at Reflection Riding. “Under his leadership, this organization has come so far, and we are really excited about where Mark will take us in the future.”
"I first met Mark in 2018 at the Dream Big Summit in McAllen, Tx., and was immediately impressed with his professionalism and enthusiasm,” said Jen Levy, ANCA executive director. “It was obvious that he would do great things for his nature center and for ANCA.”
Reflection Riding’s trajectory clearly changed upon Mr. McKnight’s arrival. In 2020, the organization brought in roughly five times its revenue in 2016, part of a precipitous rise in earned revenue, donations, memberships and grants. Mr. McKnight intentionally recruited "new, dynamic leaders to the board and staff, which are both engaged and collaborative." The organization officially completed its merger at the end of 2018.
Mr. McKnight’s accomplishments do not end there. He has also developed many new partnerships throughout the region, completed a strategic planning process, led a comprehensive master planning process and worked to put in place a conservation easement that will permanently preserve the organization’s 300 acres. Though the pandemic has changed the organization’s work, Mr. McKnight has led Reflection Riding to still grow and engage the community in newfound ways.
“Mark embodies the creative leadership we all aspire to,” said Kitty Pochman, chair of the ANCA awards committee and executive director of the Linda Loring Nature Foundation. “The depth and breadth of his accomplishments at Reflection Riding are impressive, moving the organization forward with innovative collaborations that were transformational. He is a change agent, and his flourishing organization is a testament to his leadership and professionalism.”
Mr. McKnight has maintained a strong involvement in ANCA, regularly attending Annual Summits and serving on the ANCA Marketing Committee. He also serves on the boards of Lula Lake Land Trust, Cumberland Trails Conference, Thrive Regional Partnership and Chattanooga Lion’s Club.
ANCA will recognize Mr. McKnight with this award as part of the Leader Award Ceremony on Aug. 25 at the 2021 ANCA Summit.