From Girl Scout to Board Chair

This past December, Beth Kressley Goldstein took over as Mass Audubon’s Board Chair. Here, she shares her Mass Audubon story and her ideas for the future of the organization.


I came to love nature as many adults did—through my childhood. When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, the only activity was little league baseball and girls weren’t allowed to play. So I played outside with whoever was around, damming up streams, climbing trees, and skating on frozen lakes until my dad rang the bell for dinner. My summers were spent at Girl Scout camp in the Pocono Mountains, hiking, canoeing, and enjoying the outdoors. It was simple, wholesome good fun–we learned about the natural world without even knowing we were learning.

As an adult, being outdoors remains a huge part of my life. When my husband and I, along with our then three young children, moved to Massachusetts some 15 years ago, good friends gave us a gift membership to Mass Audubon so we could take the kids to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Our first visit was to Drumlin’s annual Tales of the Night Halloween event, followed by many other family programs and camps over the years.

I relished attending those family programs with my son as they brought me back to my childhood. One cold rainy day, we arrived wearing our slickers and rain boots. A fire was going inside the Pond House and the teacher naturalist, Edie Sisson, was talking about geology. After examining some rocks with a magnifying glass, Edie handed each kid a beat-up coffee can with a lid and sent us all outside to collect some more. With our cans full of rocks, we marched and chanted through the woods until we came upon a tee-pee made of branches. We were wet, muddy, noisy, and happy.

Taking the Next Step

I loved what was going on at Drumlin and, inspired by Edie, I wanted to get involved. I had worked in business, strategy, and marketing and wanted to give back to an organization that had meaning to me. I got my chance when I met the Sanctuary Director at the time, Christy Foote-Smith, and she soon welcomed me as a member of Drumlin’s Advisory Committee.

I valued my time working with Drumlin Farm, but after a few years I felt I still had more to give. So I asked what else I could do. After some conversations with Board members, I was invited to take the next step by joining Mass Audubon’s Board of Directors.

I soon discovered something extraordinary. What I fell in love with at Drumlin Farm—the devotion to nature, land, and people—was not just at Drumlin but at every wildlife sanctuary I encountered as well as the team at Mass Audubon’s headquarters. 

I’ve been on the Board for 10 years now and I’m honored to be given the chance to lead as the Chair. I have such deep respect for my Board and staff colleagues who bring strong skills and commitment to Mass Audubon.

In Harriet’s and Minna’s Footsteps

As a woman leading an organization with the kind of history that Mass Audubon has (being founded by two women in 1896), it’s exciting to do my part to support and grow the organization by following in their footsteps. I would include former president Laura Johnson along with founding mothers Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall on the list of strong leading women.

One of my roles as Chair of the Board is to think about the combined skills and perspectives of our Board members. I want to make sure that the Board is balanced across a number of dimensions, from gender to cultural background to life and professional experiences. The Board needs to represent the full range of residents of the Commonwealth to be effective in its work. While we still have work to do in that respect, I’m excited to think about where Mass Audubon is heading.

We just wrapped up an exceptional year, meeting and exceeding our goals and growing our impact across the state. With mounting pressures on the natural world, we know that we need to build on that success in meaningful new ways.

Planning for the Future

Over the next 10 years, I would like to see us protect more open space and connect more people to nature, engaging and welcoming the full complement of people in the Commonwealth. I want to ensure that our work remains based in science and that we continue to advocate for the environment at local, state, and federal levels. And I believe it’s important to help Massachusetts lead in the response to climate change, now more than ever.

My personal passion is educating kids in nature. I know kids don’t have the same opportunities I had. Things are more structured today. There is more fear. It’s something we need to counteract every day—and fortunately there are many people at Mass Audubon like Edie, inspiring kids like my son, who still remembers the day at Drumlin that he discovered how new life can emerge from a fallen tree. 

It’s that simple but incredible connection—that inspired my son, that inspired me, and that inspired our founding mothers—that I hope to share with everyone in Massachusetts and beyond to create a lifeblood of conservation.

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About Hillary T.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln Who: Massachusetts transplant by way of Florida and New York. Raising two young girls, who she hopes will be budding naturalists Favorite part of the job: Learning something new every day from some of the smartest and most enthusiastic groups of people

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