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NJSWEP Awards Growing Great Women Award to Amy S. Geene at the 7th Annual Gala

20 Jan 2014 2:52 PM | Anne Lazo (Administrator)
by Tali MacArthur, Chair of the Gala Planning Committee

On July 18th, 2013- a day that almost broke record high temperatures (again!)- the New Jersey chapter of SWEP hosted its 7th annual Growing Great Women in the Garden State Gala. This year’s event took place in the breathtakingly beautiful conservatory room of The Madison Hotel in Morristown, NJ. This may have been our most gorgeous venue to date. The warm sun filtered through the glass ceiling showcasing the deep greens and vibrant colors of the plants and flowers as SWEP members, guests and honorees mingled and enjoyed drinks and refreshments.

This year’s Gala drew the largest crowd yet, and the excitement and festive attitude of all attendees was evident. The highlight of the event was, as usual, the opportunity to recognize an outstanding member of our environmental community as well as the up-and-coming superstars. Ms. Amy S. Greene, President and Owner of Amy S. Greene Environmental Consultants was nominated and introduced by Ms. Susan Goetz of Acutest Laboratories. Susan highlighted Amy’s knowledge and application of natural resources management theories and practices, her ability to balance the needs of her clients with sound environmental principles, and her passion for developing her employees’ talents for over the past 25 years. Amy also volunteers her time to various professional organizations focused on education and awareness. Additionally, she serves as Trustee of The Nature Conservancy, helping to advance their conservation mission. Without question, Amy sets the highest of standards for quality and excellence in environmental field and demonstrates a personal commitment to leadership and achievement we should all strive emulate.

This year, NJSWEP was able to award four scholarships to very deserving young ladies. The first place Undergraduate Award was presented to Megan Elizabeth Helsel of Montclair State University; the second place Undergraduate Award was presented to Carla Cordoves of Rutgers University; the first place Graduate Award was presented to Kelly Triece of Montclair State University; and the second place Graduate Award was presented to Kristen M. Tomasicchio of Rutgers University. A fun twist to this year’s presentation was the gigantic checks each of these remarkable women received to celebrate their success and accomplishments and to inspire them into future careers in this diverse and exciting field.

This year’s Gala was a smashing success and the NJSWEP Steering Committee and the Gala Planning committee would like to thank our sponsors for helping make it all possible. We offer of sincere appreciation to our Platinum sponsors: Alpha Analytical, AWT Environmental Services, Inc., GEI Consultants, HamptonClarke-Veritech Laboratories, SWEP of Greater Philadelphia; our Gold sponsors: Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories Environmental, Geo-Cleanse International, Inc., Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Matrix New World Engineering, Inc., O’Brien & Gere; and our Silver sponsors: Roux Associates, Rutgers EcoComplex “Alternative Energy Innovation Center,” Sheppard & Sheppard, and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

This event is not a time to recognize only a few select outstanding women; it is most importantly when we come together to celebrate every  SWEP member, guest, committee member, Steering Committee member, and supporter for everything you do to conserve, protect, and enhance New Jersey’s natural resources, environment, and communities and for helping to make this organization fabulous. Kudos to each and everyone one of you!

An excerpt from Amy’s acceptance speech is provided below:

I often say I’ve been in the environmental field as long as there has been an environmental field.  I sometimes wonder about what sparked my interest in the environmental field, perhaps my summers at camp, perhaps my time spent in Weequahic Park in Newark as a young girl.  Perhaps the days spend wandering in the woods near my family’s home in West Orange.  A lesson that people should have access to parks and wild places to remind them of their connection to the natural world.

I find it gratifying to ponder the role of women in the choice and development of my environmental career.My mother and even my grandmother were significant women role models for me.  Both volunteered their time in helping social causes.  My grandmother was active in the Urban League and also tirelessly raised money for a camp in NY State for special needs children and senior citizens.  My Mom was active in the League of Women Voters and several social services groups.  My Mom always did the household finances.  

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s the typical professions expected of and available to women included teacher, nurse, and homemaker.  I came of age during the emergence of the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Science and math were my favorite subjects.  All my science teachers were male, typical of that time, although I was particularly inspired by the two women amongst my otherwise male math teachers.  

I volunteered at the recycling program at the West Orange Town dump in high school.  I celebrated the first Earth Day in April 1970.  I was inspired by the idea of protecting environmental resources while addressing human needs such as water supply, waste management, energy, transportation, and places to live and work.

I wanted to major in environmental science in college but there were no degree programs in the field so I invented my own at BU, studying biology, ecology, geology, and geography.  Again, most of my science and math professors were male, but I was particularly inspired by Lynn Margulis, a prominent professor and researcher in evolutionary theory.

Just out of college I was fortunate to get a job with the Essex County Park Commission Center for Environmental Studies in Roseland.   My coworker Lexa Johnson was an inspiring environmental professional, I assisted her while she explored all reaches of the Passaic River and wrote a short book about its treasures.  She also helped raise my awareness of the bias against women in everyday life and I followed her example in pointing them out to my colleagues and later to my children.

I soon applied for a position as environmental scientist with Pandullo Quirk Associates, a consulting firm with an environmental department, a relatively new concept at the time.  My next mentor was Christine Papageorgis, my new boss.  She was one of the first women to be admitted to Princeton University graduate school and receive a PhD in Ecology.  One of my few women professional coworkers at PQA, from whom I learned about planning, was Marilyn Lennon, who is now excelling as head of NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation.  At PQA I also worked with Ceil Mancini.  It was significant when Ceil and I were charged with doing a week of field work among the snakes in the Florida wetlands.  I followed Christine to Princeton Aquascience which was later acquired by IT.  As I developed a reputation in the field as a wetland ecologist I springboarded from there to starting my own business in 1986.

All this while raising two children.  I deliberately tried to raise my daughter to be an independent woman.  When she was young I would tell her that Mommy was a scientist, proud that I had a non-traditional career for a woman and also of course pleased to be a scientist.  One day she asked me, Mommy, can men be scientists?  I knew then I had made my point and the world was changing for the better.  By the way, Lara graduated with a degree in Environmental Education and is a Science and Math teacher in North Carolina.

Over the past 27 years I am so pleased to have nurtured the careers of many women as well as men environmental professionals as employees of Amy S. Greene Environmental Consultants, Inc.  They are of course the ones who make me look good!!  There are many to recognize.  Among them Sue Quackenbush Kerri QuagliaJen LaStella; and Sarah Bray.

Since I have such a great staff it enables me to volunteer my time to assist other environmental professionals as well as to further environmental protection by participating in organizations including the Environmental Business Council, Society of American Military Engineers, Raritan Headwaters Association, Raritan Township Environmental Commission and Open Space Committee, and The Nature Conservancy.  

My current women professional role models include Barbara Brummer, a PhD ecologist and business woman retired executive from J&J who has launched a new career as Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy New Jersey Chapter, an organization for which I am privileged to be a Trustee.  And also Valerie Montecalvo, a fellow TNC trustee who heads Bayshore Recycling, a construction waste recycling company, who is an active SWEP member.

Thank you again for this recognition as a woman environmental professional, grown in the garden state!  I will strive to continue to live up to the standards of this award.

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