After nearly 25 years of exceptional and deeply committed leadership as Executive Director at the Eagle’s Nest Foundation (ENF), Noni Waite-Kucera plans to step down from her role in September, 2024. Eagle’s Nest was founded in 1927 and chartered as a not-for-profit summer camp with a unique educational mission in 1950. Nearly 100 years later, its mission is more relevant than ever. Under Noni’s leadership the organization has grown to be an innovator in experiential education, a model of sustainability and conservation practices, and an impact-driven leader in the camping and educational communities on a regional and national level.
“Noni’s transformative vision and extraordinary leadership have advanced ENF’s mission for her entire career. Noni’s steady and caring hand has guided ENF through decades of transformation and growth but has always helped ensure that ENF delivers impactful programs of the highest quality. We are a better and stronger organization because of her leadership. While we hate to see her go, we look forward to working with Noni to help us find the next Executive Director for ENF so that we may continue to enrich the lives of young people and our communities,” said Cormac Connor, President of the ENF Board of Trustees. “My fellow trustees and I appreciate Noni’s remarkable stewardship of Eagle’s Nest, and we join her, the ENF staff, and all our wonderful community of campers, students, families, and supporters in embracing the next stage with excitement and optimism.”
Noni was essentially born and raised at Eagle’s Nest. Her grandfather, Dr. Alex Waite was one of the co-founders of Eagle’s Nest Camp. In fact, Noni’s mother and father worked together at Eagle’s Nest in their college years. Her father, the late Dr. Moseley Waite, was a camp counselor and chaired the Board of Trustees, and Noni’s mother, Helen Waite, was also a camp counselor, camp director, founder of The Outdoor Academy, and the first Executive Director of the Eagle’s Nest Foundation. Noni was a camper and counselor at Eagle’s Nest and went on to direct many camp programs. In 1989, Noni became the Business Manager. In 1993, she assumed the role of Camp Director for Eagle’s Nest Camp in addition to the role of Business Manager. In 2000, the Board of Trustees selected Noni as the Foundation’s second Executive Director.
During her tenure, Eagle’s Nest Foundation has deepened and expanded its commitment to building community and helping to create the “whole child” through each of the organization’s programs, Eagle’s Nest Camp, Hante Adventures (cultural and outdoor immersion programs for teens), and The Outdoor Academy, a semester boarding school. Under Noni’s leadership, The Outdoor Academy, now 28 years old, has become one of the nation’s leading semester schools and has enriched the lives of hundreds of students. The summer programs are thriving as they close in on the Foundation’s centennial year.
“I am proud and honored to have spent my career at Eagle’s Nest,” said Noni. “Promoting the natural world and the betterment of human character is our mission and is critical to making our world a better place. To know that thousands of children and teens have learned to reveal and embrace their best selves through simple living, connect deeply to nature, and live well in community in my time at Eagle’s Nest leaves me incredibly grateful. It has been a tremendous gift to work alongside passionate, creative, and deeply committed colleagues in this important work, and I stand ready to help further the mission over the years to come.”
While there is no way to replace Noni, the ENF Board of Trustees has retained the Aspen Leadership Group (ALG) to guide and oversee the transition process. ALG will coordinate a nationwide search and bring its expertise in mission-driven executive searches. Aspen’s team has extensive experience working with regional and national educational organizations. The official search process will begin in late Fall with the expectation of identifying a candidate by early to mid-Spring 2024.
“Noni’s steady leadership leaves the organization on strong footing as we begin our next chapter,” said Will Abberger, Chair of the Search Committee of the ENF Board of Trustee. “The Board is looking forward to working with the Aspen Leadership Group to find the next leader of Eagle’s Nest to build on the important legacy of the organization and to continue our vital work at the forefront of the experiential education and the summer camping and semester school movement.”