President & CEO
Kate Wheeler (she/her) nearly tripped over her own good fortune when she returned to Crystal Cove Conservancy as the President & CEO in 2019. With the support of a crack team and clever board, she leads the organization’s work to completely restore the beach cottages in the Historic District—a National Register of Historic Places Site—to educate and inspire students who have little access to places like Crystal Cove; and to protect the park and its natural, cultural, and historic resources for our visitors today and those who will come later.
Kate’s approach to the work, which holds collaboration, equity, and investment in people at its heart, has served her well through more than two decades of helping a broad-ranging collection of really great nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions. Kate reluctantly admits that fundraising, finance, and organizational development are her areas of expertise, but she holds great admiration and a bit of envy for the scientists, educators, and naturalists she is surrounded by.
Prior to joining The Conservancy, Kate led the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s development work in the western US to support on-the-ground conservation and animal rescue work in Southern and East Africa, the gulf coast of Mexico, Baja California, and in India, China, and Australia. With IFAW, she got to see elephants, jaguars (almost), humpbacks, pangolins, and lions with some incredibly smart people. For nearly a decade before that, Kate was focused on creating partnerships among nonprofit organizations, businesses, schools, government agencies, and philanthropists to create equitable opportunities in literacy education for some of our nation’s most vulnerable young people – children of the incarcerated and children from military families. It was good work, and she learned a lot.
Kate earned a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership from the University of San Diego (USD) in 2011 when her kids were 9, 11, and 14. Oof. Although her masters work was focused on organizational dynamics and organizational change, her favorite class was ‘Love & Leadership’. She has taught at both USD and National University and has a long history of community involvement from serving on the City of Aspen’s Open Space and Trails Committee in the 90s to currently serving on the board of directors for the California League of Park Associations and supporting her kids’ involvement in LGBTQ+ and disability rights movements. She lives in south Orange County with her cat, Cat, her dachshund, Maple, and when they visit, her three grown children. She wrote her own bio.