Chandra Taylor Smith, Audubon’s Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, passed away on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, leaving a deep void in the organization and in the hearts of colleagues and friends across the network. Chandra arrived at Audubon in 2012 to help manage Audubon’s education programs and provide guidance to the staff of Audubon’s 41 nature centers and more than 460 chapters. In 2015 she stepped into a new role, spearheading the efforts to diversify Audubon’s workforce and impact, and working to help usher in a new era in which the conservation movement would truly reflect the demographics of the United States.
Perhaps Chandra’s greatest gift was using her prodigious talents, wit, compassion, and enthusiasm to galvanize others to action. She brought tremendous joy and inspiration to each person she met, motivating everyone to be better conservationists, and just generally better people, and she never asked for or expected anything in return.
Though it is impossible to encapsulate an entire person’s life—and incalculable impact on others—in a few words, that did not stop Chandra’s friends and colleagues from trying. Here we’ve gathered just a small sample of the tributes from those with whom Chandra worked from across the Audubon network—state leaders, center directors, chapter members, and more—many of whom collaborated directly with her to make Audubon a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization.
"I'll hold dear the pictures Chandra showed and the story she told at the convention about how her dad took the kids on summer road trips. I'll miss Chandra's guidance. Audubon surely has a void [now]." —David Yarnold, President and CEO
"Her smile and laughter will not be forgotten, nor her brilliance and vision for a truly diverse conservation movement that stems from a spirit of authenticity. She was one of the most authentic people I have ever been blessed to meet." —Sharon Richardson, Executive Director, Audubon South Carolina
"Chandra represented the best of Audubon on a daily basis and I will forever be grateful for knowing and working with her, she was a force. She was generous with her time and a thoughtful conversationalist. We shared stories, experiences, program goals and dreams, and our resolve for the necessity of organizational planning and practice through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion." —Robbianne Macklin, Vice President, Development
"Chandra left a deep impression on me as she was talking passionately about diversity in Audubon. I had the pleasure to meet her and chat. Although we only talked a few minutes, I could feel that she was a kind, admirable person." —Yu Chuan Shan, Dangermond GIS fellow
"Chandra was a wonderful soul, and the minute I met her in her new role with Audubon (at Hog Island!) I knew she was going to take Audubon by storm and move the organization to get things done. I felt her passion, her resolve, and it was contagious and encouraging. I will miss her deeply." —Celeste De Palma, Everglades Policy Associate, Audubon Florida
"I was so touched by her presence and her PRESENCE. She was just radiant in this life; wisdom, spirit, warmth, strength." —Robin Priddy, Director At Large, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society
"She brought a light, joy, and passion to our mission that won’t burn out and, though it all, kept motivated to increase peace and understanding and make Audubon a beacon in that endeavor. Your movement will keep going, Chandra, with Audubon and all those you touched." —Doug Meffert, Executive Director, Audubon Louisiana
"I am so sorry to hear this news. What a tremendous loss for Audubon and her family." —Chérie Southwick, Dangermond GIS fellow
"Chandra was a truth-speaker who empowered others to be the same through her startling presence of heart and mind. When she called me brother it really made me feel like I was a part of a wonderful family that spread across the country. I hope we can keep the gifts she shared with Audubon—and with us individually—shining bright far into the future." —Keith Ashley, Resource Development Director, Tucson Audubon Society
"Her faith—in God and people—will remain an inspiration. She will be sorely missed." —Matt Anderson, Vice President for Climate
"The world has lost an incredibly bright, compassionate, amazing voice while the heavens have surely acquired a star. I'm so glad to have gotten to meet her." —Karen Fogas, Executive Director, Tucson Audubon Society
"Chandra was warm and welcoming and had so much to offer to the Audubon family and so many more. I hope each of us can look upon a loving memory of our friend and colleague and find inspiration to continue her mission to help Audubon grow." —Joey Manson, Director, Seward Park Audubon Center
Those wishing to make a donation in her honor for Hog Island Summer Camp
Or send checks payable to the National Audubon Society and mailed to the attention of Marc Scollo:
National Audubon Society
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014
Attn: Marc Scollo
Accompany with either a letter, note or a mere reference in the memo section of the check: In memory of Chandra Taylor Smith.