Preservationist tapped for Rebecca Lukens Award

Natural Lands Trust head lauded by National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum

Molly K. Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust, has been selected as the recipient of the Eighth Annual Rebecca Lukens Award. Photo by Bob Williams

Molly K. Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust, has been selected as the recipient of the Eighth Annual Rebecca Lukens Award. Photo by Bob Williams

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree a long time ago.” Those words, not only spoken but also acted upon over the years by Molly K. Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust, has led to her selection for the Eighth Annual Rebecca Lukens Award.

Bestowed by the Graystone Society’s National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, the honor goes to individuals who exhibit the qualities of Rebecca Lukens, a trailblazing industrialist who ran the steel mill from 1825 to 1847. The museum recently celebrated Lukens’ 220th birthday, a Graystone Society news release said.

A Chester County native, Morrison learned to appreciate the importance of land preservation by spending time on her grandparents’ farm in northern Chester County, where her German immigrant ancestors had been farming since the early 1700s.  After pursuing an English degree at Ursinus College and masters in communications at Syracuse University, Morrison worked at the Brandywine Valley Association (BVA) and then for Chester County, where she served in a variety of positions over a 21-year period, most recently as director of policy and planning.  In that role, she oversaw the development and implementation of the county’s nationally recognized open space program, as well as the policy development of policy and program implementation for planning, parks, water resources, and community development, the release said. 

As president of Natural Lands Trust, Morrison has been instrumental in creating conservation strategies for complex land transactions, including the acquisition of the 1,263-acre ChesLen Preserve in Newlin Township.  In addition to providing strategic leadership and fund-raising for a staff of 60, Morrison oversees a network of 42 nature preserves and 361 conservation easements, totaling more than 44,000 acres, according to the release.

Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust (and its predecessor, the Philadelphia Conservationists) has saved more than 100,000 acres of natural areas and agricultural lands, making it one of the largest regional nonprofit land trusts in the U.S. While much of its land protection focus has been in Chester County, Natural Lands Trust pursues strategic land preservation and stewardship activities throughout all of eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Morrison has also served on a variety of boards, including the YMCA of Greater West Chester, the Chester County Art Association, and the Chester County United Way, among others. Married with two grown daughters, she resides in Thornbury Township, Chester County.

“As a Chester County native, I have always been inspired by those individuals in our county’s history who have emerged as leaders to take on all manner of challenging roles – in women’s and civil rights, in business, in education, in government, and in conservation,” said Morrison. “Rebecca Lukens is the epitome of that spirit of transformation and commitment. Receiving an award in her name is an incredible honor for me.”

James D. Ziegler, the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum’s executive director applauds this years’ choice for the eighth annual Rebecca Lukens Award. “Molly is a visionary, a doer, and a strategic leader. Her actions mirror those of Rebecca in her dedication to the land, community, and family. Like others before her, she has contributed to a better Chester County – one that has benefited from her dedication and vision.”

The Rebecca Lukens Award will be presented to Morrison at a reception in the Lukens National Historic District, on March 19, from 5 to 8 p.m.  Tickets are $50 and reservations are required. The event is made possible through sponsors that include Citadel Federal Credit Union; PECO Energy; Huston Properties, Inc.; The Stewart Huston Charitable Trust; Brandywine Health Foundation; Coatesville Savings Bank; DNB First; and Mr. and Mrs. Scott G. Huston.

The Graystone Society, which was created in 1984 to help preserve the city’s historic architecture, also assists with municipal improvement and economic development through preservation. The Graystone Society is named for the Graystone Mansion, part of the Lukens National Historic District, which is the home of the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum.

One focal point of the museum is the 500 tons of World Trade Center steel “trees” originally manufactured at Lukens Steel in the late 1960s. An historic convoy returned the massive steel beams to Coatesville on April 14, 2010. This museum focuses on the people, places, products and processes that once made Coatesville the center of the iron and steel industry.

For event information and reservations, contact The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum at 610-384-9282 or The Lukens National Historic District is located at 50 S. First Ave., Coatesville.

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