Owl Creek Conservancy
Meet Our Board Members

Robert Clendening, President
Rob has been the Administrator for the Knox Soil and Water Conservation District since 1990, having provided soil and water resource management assistance to Knox County land users since 1985. He is a USDA Certified Conservation and Nutrient Management Planner; an Ohio Department of Agriculture Certified Livestock Manager; currently the Vice President of the Knox County Farm Bureau Board; Assistant Treasurer at the Brandon Baptist Church; and an ex-officio representative on the Knox County Regional Planning Commission.

Drew Kerkhoff, Secretary
Drew is an Associate Professor of Biology and Mathematics & Statistics at Kenyon College and a member of the advisory panel of the Brown Family Environmental Center at Kenyon College. He conducts research on plant ecology and biodiversity with the goal of better predicting how ecosystems will respond to our rapidly changing environment. He is an associate editor of two research journals, The American Naturalist and Global Ecology and Biogeography, and is co-director of the Kenyon Institute in Biomedical and Science Writing. An Ohio native, Drew sees the conservation of a vibrant mosaic of farmlands, forests, wetlands, and waterways as key to protecting the quality of life of future generations.

Mark Leonard, Vice President
Mark is a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon. He started his banking career after graduating from Kenyon College, and retired from his position as Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at First-Knox National Bank in 2015. He is a member of the Board for "Diversified Products and Services" at the Mount Vernon Developmental Center and past Co-Chair of the United Way Campaign (2009). He retired from the YMCA board after 25 years of service. Mark is an avid fisherman and kayaker who has spent much of his life exploring and fishing the Kokosing Valley. He became a grandfather for the first time in January 2015.

Richard Stallard, Ph.D., Vice President for Land Protection
Richard was a Clinical Cytogeneticist, American College of Medical Genetics before retirement. He is a Founding Fellow of the American Board of Medical Genetics. He was the Vice Chairman of the Knox County Regional Planning Commission from 1999 to 2009. Richard served as President of the Conservancy from 2001 to 2010 and as the Executive Director of the Conservancy from 2010 to 2013. He has been the Vice President for Land Protection since 2014.

Ian Watson, Treasurer
Ian retired from The First-Knox National Bank at the age of fifty-eight, where he served as Senior Vice President and Trust Officer. After working with various estates over the years, he discovered how you can, in fact, “take it with you” and has used the ensuing years to hone his estate plan. He has served as Treasurer of a number of organizations in Knox County over the years, including Knox County Mental Health, Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County Endowment Fund, Kiwanis Club of Mount Vernon, the Knox County Chapter of Barbershoppers, and the Knox County Symphony. He is currently serving as Treasurer at the First Congregational Church as he has for over 30 of the last 40 years. He is the President of the Knox Community Hospital Board of Directors and is a board member of the Knox Community Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. Although technically not a native, as virtually all of his forebears began in Western Europe, he does claim deep roots, as one of his great-great grandfathers was born in Knox County November 9, 1818. As you may have noted, he is also sliding inexorably into studying genealogy…..

Eric Holdener, Ph.D.
Born in Tennessee, Eric moved to the St. Louis area when he was a week old and later moved across the Mississippi to Belleville, Illinois. A love of nature grew while exploring the woods near his home, both living, in the form of any bug or critter he could get his hands on, and dead, in the form of rocks and fossils that littered the creek bed running through the woods. He has shared this love of nature and the earth with others through work at the University of Illinois Natural History Museum (Champaign, IL) and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry (Colorado Springs, CO); through teaching, most recently at Kenyon College; and in public service as a representative of the Village of Gambier to the Knox County Regional Planning Commission and member of the Gambier Shade Tree Commission. An avid soccer dad, Eric spends a significant portion of his life following his sons' efforts on the soccer pitch.

Beth Morgan
Beth was raised in Columbus and received a teaching degree from The Ohio State University, after which she taught in Columbus Public Schools. Beth and her husband Doug have been part-time Knox County residents for 30 years. While raising three children, Beth spent her time volunteering and held leadership positions in many Columbus-based organizations, including: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, The Childhood League, The Columbus Museum of Art, and the Little Garden Club of Columbus. In 2011, Beth and Doug started the Mount Vernon Barn Company with the core mission to save and repurpose 100 19th-century Ohio barns and log houses so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

Beth Waller
Beth is originally from Grove City, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University's School of Interdisciplinary Studies, earning a Bachelor of Philosopy with a focus in Environmental Studies. She completed a Master's of Science in Entomology at The Ohio State University. After graduate school, Beth worked with a multidisciplinary team of researchers on farms in Minnesota where rotational grazing methods were used. In 2001, Beth and her husband, Jay Dorsey, moved to Knox County where they raise beef cattle on their 42-acre farm. Beth and Jay protected their farm with a conservation easement through Philander Chase Conservancy. Beth works for an organic vegetable farmer and is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, or OCVN. As an OCVN, she derives a great deal of joy learning about trees, wetlands and wildflowers, not to mention birds, butterflies, bats and people.

Gordy Yance
Gordy is the retired past president of the First-Knox National Bank in Mount Vernon. He served as Chairman of the First-Knox Board for ten years and was a member of the Farmers and Savings Bank Board in Loudonville for thirty years. Prior to joining First-Knox in 1978, he was employed for seven years by the public accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in Columbus. Gordy has volunteered his time and talent with numerous organizations, including: Knox Community Hospital, Trustee and Board Chairman; Area Development Foundation of Knox County, Trustee and Board Chairman; Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Board Member; Mount Vernon and Knox County Chamber of Commerce, Board Member; Mount Vernon Rotary Club and Foundation, Club President and Foundation Chairman; Central Ohio Technical College, Mount Vernon Campus Advisory Board, Trustee and Board Chairman; United Way of Knox County, 24-year Treasurer; Village Network/Knox County Children's Resource Center, Advisory Board Member; Mount Vernon City Income Tax Appeals Board, Board Chairman, and Salvation Army, Board Member. Gordy holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from Ohio University and was a certified public accountant. He and his wife, Fran, live in Mount Vernon and are the proud parents of Jennifer and Justin.

Guy Denny (Advisor to the Board)
Guy is the retired Chief, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Secretary/Treasurer of Outdoor Writers of Ohio; a member of the Board of the Midwest Biodiversity Institute, the Brown Family Environmental Center, Scenic Ohio, Friends of the Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden, and Ohio Trust for Public Lands. He is a Special Advisor of the Ohio Environmental Council and Ohio League of Conservation Voters. He is a member of District Seventeen Natural Resources Advisory Council; a former Executive Director of the Ohio Biological Survey; he was appointed by Governor Taft to a term on the Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden Commission. He is also the owner and creator of a notable Ohio prairie, where he gives educational tours.

Doug Givens (Advisor to the Board)
Before his second retirement, Doug was the founding managing director of the Philander Chase Corporation, a non-profit land preservation organization associated with Kenyon College. He served as chair of the Farmland Preservation Committee of the Knox County Regional Planning Commission and served on the State of Ohio Farmland Preservation Advisory Board. Doug was a founding trustee of the Owl Creek Conservancy. He is the vice president, director, and member of the executive committee of the Scranton-Averell Company (a land holding company) and is a director of the Bradford & Carter Company (a real estate development company). He served as president of the Brown Fund and is currently a director of the George B. Storer Foundation. For 28 years, he worked in the development office at Kenyon College, retiring from the vice presidency in 2000. He earned his bachelor's and master's degree at Indiana University and received a doctor of laws degree from Kenyon College. Doug's tireless volunteer work on behalf of the Conservancy has been invaluable.

Howard Gratz (Advisor to the Board)
Howard taught biology and earth science at Loudonville High School and then spent 30 years at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, as a regional naturalist and planning section administrator. Howard is an avid birder and participates in wild bird research, including breeding bird surveys, point counts and Christmas bird counts with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Audubon Society. A resident of Knox County since 1980, Howard is very interested in the conservation of farmlands, open spaces, waterways, wetlands and natural areas throughout the county.

Ray Heithaus, Ph.D., (Advisor to the Board)
Ray first arrived in Knox County in 1964, where he still resides with his wife, Pat. He enjoys visiting and photographing Knox County’s natural areas. Ray is a Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Studies at Kenyon College; a co-founder of the Brown Family Environmental Center at Kenyon College; a co-founder of the Environmental Studies Program at Kenyon College; and a Board member of the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association.

Sally Nelson, CPA (Advisor to the Board)
Sally is a self-described "recovering CPA" who retired from the accounting life after the 2016 tax season. She is the treasurer of Food for the Hungry and the Schnormeier Gardens Foundation; past chair and treasurer of the Knox County Chamber of Commerce; past president and treasurer of the United Way of Knox County and Psi Iota Xi; past treasurer of the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County; and a past member of the Rotary Club and Foundation. She recently had the pleasure of seeing her youngest daughter married in the mountains of Colorado.


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