Ward honored as the Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick Chair in Sustainability

Five professionals posing for a photo, one wearing a medal, standing between two College of ACES banners.
From left: professor Robert Schooley, Provost John Coleman, Levenick Chair Michael Ward, iSEE director Madhu Khanna, and dean Germán Bollero

Professor Michael P. Ward was honored as the Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick Chair in Sustainability in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) at an investiture ceremony held by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on April 18. 

Michael Ward has earned national and international recognition for his basic and applied research on the ecology and behavior of birds. His pioneering research has led to the development of novel approaches to species conservation. He also applies animal behavior to the conservation of threatened and endangered species. His research includes evaluating habitat selection, developing habitat management plans for agencies, and integrating biodiversity and associated ecosystem services into human-dominated landscapes. 

“Michael P. Ward’s research is highly collaborative and he engages in broad efforts to protect numerous species and achieve environmental sustainability,” said College of ACES Dean Germán Bollero. “In pursuit of his conservation efforts, Ward works with a variety of stakeholders from farmers to the U.S. Army to the Cuban and Mexican governments. His teaching, mentorship, and outreach have inspired generations of scholars, officials, and conservationists.”

Ward has published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in top-ranked journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His work has also been recognized with numerous awards, including the College of ACES Faculty Award for Excellence in Research (2017) and the Runge Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award (2021). Ward serves on multiple technical advisory boards at the state, regional, and national levels. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Truman State University and went on to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees in avian ecology and conservation from Illinois.

Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick Chair in Sustainability

The Levenick Chair holds a faculty affiliate appointment in the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) and oversees the Levenick Resident Scholars in Sustainability Leadership program, a partnership between NRES and iSEE that brings experts to campus to share fresh perspectives and innovations with the Illinois community. Both the chair and program were established through a generous endowment from Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick. 

Stuart Levenick retired as group president from Caterpillar Inc., where he held a variety of executive roles, and he currently holds board positions with several international corporations. He also serves as a member of the board of directors and the development committee chair for the University of Illinois Foundation; in addition, he is a member of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics Campaign Planning Committee. Stuart Levenick graduated from the College of ACES with a bachelor’s degree in forestry and furthered his education as a Sloan Fellow, earning an M.S. in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was awarded the University of Illinois Varsity “I” Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and the College of ACES Career Achievement Award in 2018.

Nancy Levenick graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Education, and taught high school English in Toronto, before the couple embarked on an eight-move, global career including assignments in Canada, Singapore, Russia, and Japan, returning to Peoria in 2004. Since then, Nancy Levenick has been active as a member of the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Advocacy Board and a board member of WTVP and Peoria Ballet. Both Stu and Nancy have been active members of the Heart of Illinois United Way.

To explore giving opportunities related to endowed chairs and professorships in the College of ACES, contact the Office of Advancement at 217-333-9355 or acesadvancement@illinois.edu.