2015 Year in Review: Ed Clark, President

It’s time to look back on 2015! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2015 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

I recently had a shocking realization! During the scheduling of a special event for the Wildlife Center which will take place in 2016, one of the dates that popped up as an option was June 4 -- my birthday. Now, it is not going to be just any old birthday (did I say “old”?); it will be my 65th birthday. I just can’t believe that this daunting number is bearing down on me, but that’s another story. I can ignore that for another four or five months. The shock came when I realized that since the Wildlife Center of Virginia was founded in 1982 -- 33 years ago -- I have now spent more than half of my entire life working at the Wildlife Center -- not just my adult life ... the whole thing!! I have colleagues who were not even born when we started this organization … about half of them, now that I think about it!

It has taken a while to process all this, and I’m still working on it!

As I sit here considering this momentous revelation and try to capture a few thoughts, there is Christmas music playing in the background. In what seems like the blink of an eye, this year is nearly gone. We are nervously watching the mail for those all-important year-end contributions, compiling reports, and finishing up last-minute chores before we say goodbye to 2015 and welcome the New Year. Still, I can’t shake the thought that I have now spent more than half of my life doing one thing; well, doing many things, but in one role … as President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Now, lest you fear that this is one of those maudlin lamentations on where my life has gone, as I see myself circling the drain, let me assure you that I’m not given to such things. I don’t dwell in the past and never have. I’m pretty much a here-and-now kind of guy, and I’m always facing forward. Still, there is value in stopping, from time to time, to take stock of where you have been and where you are going. If the phrase “the past is prologue” has any meaning, then I guess I should feel pretty good about how the last 33 years have turned out.

When people ask me what I do at the Wildlife Center, my typical response is “Not much. I just hire the world’s best people, then try to stay out of their way!” While there is a certain element of humor intended, there is an even bigger aspect of truth to that statement. Nearly everything accomplished by the Wildlife Center of Virginia from the very first day has been a team effort. In the last 33 years, nearly 200 people have passed through our professional ranks in various capacities, to say nothing of the hundreds more students and volunteers. Many have gone on to prestigious and influential roles in academia, government, public education, science, and public service. Through them, our influence and impact truly touches the entire world every single day. I’m lucky to have been a part of that team for a very long time.

We have treated about 70,000 patients. We have reached more than two million people with our educational programs. Through technology, we now communicate with more people in a single month than we used to reach in an entire year—people all over the world. Our professional training programs continue to receive the highest accolades. And, our influence on public policy and wildlife conservation efforts continues to have a very positive impact, at home and abroad. What we have accomplished in our first 33 years is significant, but we don’t rest on our laurels.

For me, the most encouraging thing about the Wildlife Center of Virginia is the fact that we are always raising the bar and looking for new and better ways to advance our mission of teaching the world to care about, and care for, wildlife and the environment. While I may not have another 33 years left in me to devote to this cause—although, I might!—knowing that our team includes so many eager, capable, talented, and dedicated young professionals, gives me hope that the Wildlife Center of Virginia will continue to teach the world for a long, long time to come. It is a pretty darn good feeling knowing that the future of our organization will be in such good hands. Before the questions and rumors start, NO!, I’m not planning to go anywhere just yet, but it’s nice to know that when I do, I won’t need to worry about the incredible organization this team has built.

As I wind up this missive, I’m getting ready to head into the office for our annual Christmas pot-luck luncheon and Secret Santa gift exchange. In a few minutes, I know that our team will be sharing a fine meal with too many desserts. (These people LOVE desserts!) We will also continue our tradition of a Secret Santa gift exchange. I can count on the fact that some of the goofy gifts will leave us weeping with laughter. Above all, I know the day will be full of warmth and joy that comes from spending time with a group of people for whom I have true respect and genuine affection. So, I will close this reflection on 2015 … indeed my reflection on the last 33 years … by saying that I am truly blessed to be associated with this incredible team of professionals.

But it must be said that one of the most important parts of the team is the thousands of people who have donated their time, money, goods and services to keep this organization moving forward. YOU are a part of the team. Thank you!

As 2016 fast approaches, I wish each of you the very best that life has to offer. We appreciate the generosity and commitment of all who are a part of the Wildlife Center’s team … indeed, the Wildlife Center family … staff, volunteers, supporters, students, and those who care enough to rescue the thousands of wild patients for which we care, and from whom we learn every single day.

Thank you for the last 33 years, and thanks in advance for the even brighter future that lies ahead!

--Ed Clark

See all of the 2015 blog posts here!