Leadership Team

  • Charles S. Potter Jr. | President and CEO

    Charlie Potter 2014

    Charles S. Potter Jr. is president and CEO of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. He is well known throughout the United States for his leadership in the conservation arena. Charlie has also successfully started and operated businesses in the outdoor recreation industry and has been engaged in the world of agriculture investing to create agriculture properties that benefit conservation and natural resource interests.

    He has served as CEO of the North American Wildlife Foundation (now Delta Waterfowl Foundation), and has worked on projects to enhance wetlands, habitat, open space and the efficiency of conservation funding throughout the U.S. and Canada.  He is a past chair of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and is a past or current board member of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Advisory Board, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, National Land Trust Alliance, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Sand County Foundation, the Property and Environment Research Center, Lake Forest (Ill.) Open Lands, and The Wetlands Initiative.  He is a life sponsor of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl Foundation and the National Rifle Association.

    Among his honors: Induction into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame, the Chevron/Times Mirror Conservationist of the Year Award, and Reader’s Digest “Heroes of The Land.” Charlie is a passionate waterfowler; his book Following the Flight chronicled the migration of ducks and geese from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. For more than 15 years, he has hosted WGN Radio’s “Great Outdoors Show,” America’s most listened to radio show on conservation issues. Charlie graduated from Northwestern University.

  • Kerry Luft | Director

    Luft. Kerry (2)

    Kerry Luft is Director of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and senior vice president for the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. He previously spent nearly three decades in journalism, mostly at the Chicago Tribune, where he specialized in national and foreign news. He has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and is an avid bird hunter and clay target shooter.

  • Stanley D. Gehrt, Ph.D | Vice President


    Stanley D. Gehrt, Ph.D is Vice President of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and also serves as chair of the Center for Wildlife Research at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. He is also holds a position as associate professor of wildlife ecology at The Ohio State University, and serves as the state Wildlife Specialist for OSU Extension.

    His research program focuses on various aspects of mammalian ecology, especially urban systems, human-wildlife conflicts, and dynamics of wildlife disease. He is principal investigator of the largest urban coyote study conducted to date. Other research includes coyote and deer ecology in Cleveland, Ohio, and a collaborative project on coyotes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia.

    As an expert on human-coyote conflicts, Dr. Gehrt has consulted with cities across the United States and Canada. His research has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television outlets. Dr. Gehrt is the senior editor of the volume Urban Carnivores, published in 2010 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Zachary E. Lowe, Ph.D | Vice President

    zach lowe

    Zachary E. Lowe, Ph.D is Vice President of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and national director of the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program. He has a diverse professional background within the disciplines of land management, wildlife research, and conservation education. He holds B.S. degrees in wildlife science and in fisheries and aquatic science and a Ph.D. in restoration ecology from Purdue University. He is an adjunct faculty member at Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for The Wildlife Society. A Midwest native, Zach is passionate about hunting and traps and fishes as the seasons allow. He is a member of several professional conservation organizations and is dedicated to preserving our hunting heritage and ensuring our ability to manage all things wild.

  • Brent Manning | Senior Advisor

    Manning. Brett (2)

    Brent Manning is Senior Advisor of McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and one of the nation’s most respected natural resources executives.

    From 1991 to 2003, he was the top natural resources official in Illinois, first as director of the Department of Conservation and then as the first director of the Department of Natural Resources, a new umbrella department that merged Conservation with two state agencies and parts of two others.

    He oversaw the acquisition of more than 100,000 acres for conservation, and worked with state and federal officials to convert thousands of acres at closed military bases to recreational use. He won legislative approval for programs and initiatives that generated millions of dollars for conservation efforts. He later served as director of Wyoming Game and Fish and executive director of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Illinois.

    Among his many honors: The Ducks Unlimited Wetland Conservation Award, Eastern Illinois University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award; the American Greenways DuPont Award, and the National Leadership Award from the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers. He was named to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2005.