Great Bay Stewards board Chair Jack O’Reilly received more than he expected at the Great Bay Stewards December meeting. Halfway through her update, Great Bay National Estuary Research Reserve Manager Cory Riley turned to Jack and presented him with the 2018 Evelyn Browne Conservation Award. Named after a woman known as the “Mayor of Great Bay” for all her work toward saving of the estuary, the award is given annually by the Reserve to an individual who has made a significant contribution toward the protection and conservation of the Great Bay Estuary.
About a decade ago, Jack, wearing his former Chemistry teacher hat, called the Reserve Education Coordinator asking for information and materials about Great Bay. It wasn’t long before Jack attended one of the Reserve’s volunteer trainings and began as a school program educator. He quickly became involved in many of the programs at the Reserve, which eventually led to him joining the board of the Great Bay Stewards. Much like the way Jack is, when the board sounded the cry for a vice chair Jack stepped up. Then, a louder cry for chair rang out and once again Jack stepped up. His colleagues recall Jack indicating he only wanted to do it for a short time, but several years later he’s still jokingly banging the gavel when things get too noisy.
“Jack is the kind of man who is there when you need him,” says Cory Riley, Reserve Manager. “It could be an important grant that needs signing, a volunteer slot unfilled, or a full presentation at an annual meeting. When Jack is called to serve he does so with a smile on his face and the ultimate prize of a cleaner, healthier Great Bay clearly in his focus.”
Jack not only gives of his time at the Reserve, but is also on the school board and recreation committee in his hometown of Newington, N.H., has served on the board of the Gundalow Company, and has previously been on his town library board and board of selectmen – by his own count he’s been an elected official in Newington for 31 years and counting. “When he comes to the Discovery Center, he’s usually also on his way to or from another meeting,” says Allison Knab, executive director of the Great Bay Stewards. “He is always willing to lend a hand, just saying ‘sign me up where you need me.’ As an added bonus, he also often shows up with shellfish he’s just caught for the creatures in the Discovery Center’s discovery tank.”
In his spare time, he can usually be found biking and camping with his wife throughout the East coast, and spending time in his other role as grandfather.
The board is very proud of the Stewards chair receiving this award. He joins a long line of past and present board members who have also received the award, including Jay Diener, Jack Mettee, Nancy Cauvet, Jean Eno, Sheila Roberge Joe Stieglitz, Edward Caito, and Peggy Mullin.