Third time is a charm
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Third time is a charm

They say the third time is a charm – and that is just one reason I rejoined Trustees for Alaska as its development director this month.

To know how I got here, we need to rewind to 1990 and my “moving to Alaska” self—a.k.a. Tracy (Walczak) Lohman. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, far from Alaska. Back then, the Great Land wasn’t even on my Top 10 Places to Visit Before You Die list.

You might say my journey north began by heading east. While earning my B.A in Communications from Slippery Rock University in 1987, I spent a year in Japan as an exchange student. That experience opened my eyes to the world and began an adventure I never imagined.

Tracy in Kodiak, Alaska.

Tracy in Kodiak, Alaska.

Upon returning to the U.S. a year later, I landed my first job with a Japanese cultural exchange program based in Washington, D.C. The perks of the job for the executive director of the Japan-American Student Conference included traveling around the U.S. and Japan talking to university students. It was my dream job.

Exxon Valdez oil spill changes everything

During that period, the tragic environmental disaster caused by the grounding of the Exxon Valdez on March 24, 1989, catapulted Alaska into my field of vision. Although Alaska was over 3,000 miles away, the images of oil-soaked otters and people cleaning beaches with paper towels stunned me.

The students I worked with were equally as affected. When discussing where to visit during the 1990 Japan-American Student Conference, they repeatedly asked to go to Alaska to discuss the environment. Soon enough, I found myself on a plane to Alaska.

Never having spent much time in the wilderness, nor in such a wild place, I was in awe. Our Japan-America Student Conference in Alaska was a great success, and I soon packed my bags and headed north.

Landing at Trustees

I landed my second non-profit job in Alaska as Trustees’ office manager in 1991. It was there I learned the nitty-gritty ropes of non-profit management, and what it means to work for change and make a difference by protecting Alaska’s natural resources.

At the time, Trustees was small and mighty with just four staff members, yet we accomplished much. We blocked a mega-resort in the middle of Denali State Park, established the Arctic Marine Species Protection Program, and continued our protection of America’s Arctic, wild lands and wildlife.

Later I served as executive director of Alaska Community Share, and then in development for other public interest non-profits, like the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the ACLU of Alaska. I returned to Trustees as development director from 2005 to 2013.

Coming full circle

Each time I join Trustees, I find that the organization has grown and matured, and so have I. We are unwavering in our shared mission. I am proud to join this strong team of staff and lawyers who can skillfully stand up and be a voice for Alaska’s conservation community through sound legal counsel and litigation.

I feel I’ve come full circle now. My varied experience has taught me that fundraising is both an art, and a science, and now I get to do that work to strengthen the funding base of Trustees while raising awareness about the importance of preserving Alaska’s wild places for future generations.

When not at work, you might bump into me shuttling around two teenage boys, volunteering on the board of directors of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and getting outside with my husband, Tom.

Did I mention I met Tom at Trustees in 1991? Ah, but that’s another story.