Student Conservation Association President to Retire in 2014

Kevin Hamilton
Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dale Penny Set to Step Down after 16 Years of Service to America’s Largest Conservation Corps

Washington, DC (January 9, 2014) – After 16 years of service, Dale Penny, President and CEO of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the national leader in youth service and stewardship, announced today his intention to retire by August 2014. Penny, an effective champion for youth empowerment for over 40 years, noted that the time to step down was right for both him and the organization.

“Dale has been an invaluable leader for SCA and the Board is indebted to him for his commitment and his many contributions to America’s largest conservation corps,” noted SCA Board Chair Dean W. Fischer. “Under Dale’s leadership, SCA has expanded its network of conservation partners, in both the public and private sectors, and has implemented effective strategies for addressing urgent environmental challenges. SCA will not be able to ‘replace’ Dale, but we are quite confident that the strong foundation Dale nurtured and cultivated leaves SCA well positioned to identify the next innovative, strong leader and to conduct an orderly transition.”

The announcement follows a process put into place two years ago by the SCA Board of Directors, which stipulates that should the existing president decide to step down, an announcement would be made at least six months in advance of the executive’s intended departure to ensure a smooth transition, orderly governance and unobtrusive effect on the flow of delivering service to SCA members, partners and staff.

“A new chief executive with new perspectives can lead SCA into the future and help build the next generation of conservation leaders to preserve and protect our nation’s natural and cultural treasures,” Penny explained. “I have had a very rewarding career, both as president of SCA and in helping to advance the causes of conservation and youth development, and after 16 years at SCA, I feel the time is right for a change and for me to spend more time with my family.”

The SCA Board has formed a Search Committee, chaired by incoming Board Chair Steven T. Seward, which is working with Explore Company, an executive search firm, to have a new president in place by August. Potential candidate inquiries should be directed to Dan Sherman at resumes@explorecompany.com

“SCA has a growing membership, a strong financial base and an exceptionally dedicated and talented staff.  I firmly believe that the best years for the organization lie ahead,” Penny further noted.

During Penny’s tenure, SCA has become the recognized leader in youth service and conservation stewardship, addressing urgent environmental challenges while providing new opportunities for young people from all backgrounds. SCA has recently launched a broad strategic initiative designed to enhance its youth development continuum, increase and diversify participation and better prepare members for lifelong stewardship.  Early achievements include the creation of the National Park Service Academy, a workforce diversity and development initiative; the expansion of innovative conservation engagement programs including Alternative Spring Breaks, sponsored by American Eagle Outfitters; the implementation of new program evaluation processes to produce improved member outcomes; and the establishment of a regionalized structure to improve diversity outreach and program delivery.

Over this time, SCA has also:

  • More than doubled its membership and output, expanding from 2,000 volunteers in 1997 to over 4,200 members in 2013;
  • Conducted important conservation projects annually at more than 500 sites, educating over one million citizens on conservation issues and rendering more than two million hours of service to America’s parks and communities;
  • Launched signature, and in many cases, award-winning conservation and restoration projects, including the Hurricane Sandy restoration project at The National Parks of New York Harbor; the Mount Rainier recovery project, which provided more than $3 million in services to the storm-ravaged national park; and other eco-relief efforts stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mojave Desert in California; and
  • Advanced its national leadership by bringing more diversity into conservation and ensuring responsible stewardship of our environment in the future;
  • Grown from a nine million dollar a year organization to one with more than $30 million in annual revenue.

Penny has been President and CEO of SCA since 1997 and has spent his entire professional life advancing the causes of youth development, experiential and outdoor education and intercultural understanding.  Prior to joining SCA, Penny spent 25 years with Up With People, the international education and community service program, where he rose to President and COO.  He also worked as senior program director of the Colorado Boys Ranch Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving troubled and at-risk youth.

While no firm plans are yet in place, Penny will explore new opportunities, such as consulting and teaching, to continue his commitment to youth development and conservation issues.