37th Annual Smith Nature Symposium

Save the date!

JUNE 19 – 20, 2020
Honoring Global Environmentalists and Writers,
Sue Halpern and Bill McKibben
Sue Halpern

Sue Halpern is a contributing writer at The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times and Rolling Stone covering science, technology and social issues. She is the author of seven books, including Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly, which was made into an Emmy-nominated film. She is a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, where she serves as Director of the program in narrative journalism. Halpern was a columnist for Mother Jones, Ms., and Smithsonian Magazine. She has been the recipient of Guggenheim and Echoing Green Fellowships, and earned BA from Yale University and a doctorate in political theory from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea. He is the recipient of the Right Livelihood Prize, Gandhi Prize, Thomas Merton Prize, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences with honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. McKibben’s 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”

Registration Opens Soon!
Learn more about our new format and sponsorship opportunities below:
Sponsorship Information
Friday, June 19, Dinner & Award Presentation

Join Sue Halpern and Bill McKibben, the 2020 Environmental Leadership Award Recipients, as we honor their extraordinary environmental writing, activism, and leadership on behalf of nature. Don’t miss their onstage conversation with Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra, Masters of Ceremonies, and the presentation of our 2020 Youth Environmental Leadership Scholarship.

Saturday, June 20, Nature & Art Symposium

This year, we harken back to the event’s 37-year roots by offering a day of dynamic Saturday programs. Enjoy nature walks for all ages, music, art, and solution spotlight presentations with the region’s top scientists, doctors, artists, and business leaders. The Symposium will also feature a stunning exhibition of paintings made with foraged plastic by artist and environmental activist, Arica Hilton.



The Symposium memorializes the significant civic legacy of Hermon Dunlap and Ellen Thorne Smith, who donated their land and cabin to help form Ryerson Woods. Hermon, or Dutch, was chair and CEO of Marsh & McLennan, and led The Chicago Community Trust, Newberry Library, and many other Chicago Institutions. Ellen was a philanthropic leader and champion of nature with organizations such as The Field Museum and Chicago Zoological Society. She authored the book Chicagoland Birds: Where and When to Find Them.

The Distinguished Environmental Leadership Award was first presented in 1984 to Roger Tory Peterson, the esteemed American naturalist, ornithologist, artist, and educator. In 2018, recipients included Robert Redford and Sibylle Szaggars Redford, for their lifelong commitment to land preservation and climate change. In 2019, the award was presented to Amory Lovins and Judy Hill Lovins for their work as leaders in low-carbon energy and as environmental photographers.

All proceeds from the Smith Nature Symposium & Benefit support Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods’ programs throughout the year.

Visit Us

Monday through Thursday








Support Us