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2018 Reilly Award-Winner Spent 40 Years Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay

William Baker, 2018 William K. Reilly award winner

On March 8, Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), will receive the William K. Reilly Award from American University School of Public Affairs' Center for Environmental Policy.

Baker has been the president of the foundation since 1982, but he began his career at the organization as an intern in 1976.

"Next to my family, this organization is the most important thing in my life," said Baker.

As the largest nonprofit conservation organization dedicated solely to preserving, protecting, and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, CBF has been integral to the health of the ecology throughout the region. As a protector of the Bay, Baker has fought tirelessly to combat irresponsible policies being pushed in Washington, D.C. and state government.

The foundation and its staff have helped support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), providing research and assisting in the advancement of transformative environmental laws throughout the past 50 years. Under Baker's leadership, the organization was critical in assisting local governments and the EPA during the 1980s and 1990s as the extent of nonpoint source pollution — polluted stormwater runoff — became evident in the Bay. CBF engaged diverse stakeholders to come together and demand immediate cleanup and protective legislation to mitigate and prevent the broad array of polluting sources. 

"Our reputation is based on what we have been able to achieve, how we make decisions, and the kind of people we have working for us. We always follow sound science, and we maintain financial stability," said Baker. "We share the Bay with people — its wonders, its critical ecology, and the imperative to save it. Once you give people a chance to know it, they get behind it." 

Under Baker's leadership, CBF has received numerous awards, including the 1992 Presidential Medal for Environmental Excellence — the nation's highest environmental honor — in recognition of CBF's Environmental Education Program, which has served more than 1,500,000 people through 15 research centers.

Baker's commitment to the community extends even further than just the Bay and CBF — he is also a trustee of Johns Hopkins Medicine, a director of Brown Advisory, an emeritus board member of the Baltimore Community Foundation, a director of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a member of the UMBC Board of Visitors, and an honorary member of The Garden Club of America.

The Reilly Awards take place March 8 at 6 p.m. in AU's Constitution Hall. To register, visit