Suzanne Case Receives Non-Profit Leadership Award

"This is a tremendous honor and I am deeply humbled and grateful."

Hawai'i Executive Director Suzanne Case





Suzanne Case, executive director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, is one of four recipients of the annual Ho‘okele Award, a special recognition given to exceptional leaders in Hawai‘i’s nonprofit industry by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation in partnership with the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.

“We’re honored to congratulate these hardworking and inspiring individuals for their years of service to our community,” said Kelvin Taketa, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. “We recognize that this line of work is incredibly demanding, and we’re committed to investing in Hawaii’s leadership. We hope that through the Ho‘okele Award we can help to sustain the dedication of our local nonprofit leaders.”

The Ho‘okele Award pays tribute to and strengthens the leadership in the state’s nonprofit sector by providing selfless leaders with an opportunity to renew themselves, rather than risk the potential “burnout” which often affects those in the industry. Each Ho‘okele Award recipient receives $10,000 to be used for their professional development and personal renewal.

Joining Case this week in receiving the honor were Howard S. Garval, president and chief executive officer, Child & Family Services; Nanci Kriedman, chief executive officer and co-founder, Domestic Action Violence Center; and Nola A. Nahulu, artistic director, Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus. 

“I would like to thank the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Gerbode Foundation for this award—it’s a tremendous honor and I am deeply humbled and grateful,” Case said.  “I have served in the non-profit sector for almost my entire career. This is a truly wonderful opportunity for me to renew my passion for protecting Hawaii’s environment into the future.”

Ho‘okele Award recipients are selected based on community nominations and their ability to think strategically and get results, bring different groups of people together, inspire others, make a difference in Hawai‘i, and enthusiastically share their knowledge. Since 2002, $520,000 has been awarded to 54 nonprofit leaders statewide. Of the 54 recipients, 51 remain in the nonprofit and public sectors.

A Tireless Advocate for Conservation

Since joining The Nature Conservancy in 1987, Case has worked tirelessly to preserve the state’s best lands and waters.  Under her direction, the Conservancy manages a statewide network of 12 preserves and works in 12 coastal communities to protect the near-shore waters of the main Hawaiian Islands. The Conservancy also works with dozens of public and private landowners to protect the islands’ key watersheds. She oversees a staff of 76 people and an annual budget of $11 million.

Case was named the Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi executive director in 2001.  In 2003, she oversaw the largest conservation land transaction in state history: the purchase of the 117,000-acre Kahuku Ranch at the southern end of Hawaii Island and its subsequent transfer to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. She has also overseen the acquisition of six Hawaiʻi Nature Conservancy preserves and the purchase of Palmyra Atoll, where the Conservancy manages a preserve and has built a research station that she also oversees.

Born in Hilo, Case attended Punahou School, where she was the first female student body president. She graduated with honors from Stanford University, and received her law degree from Hastings College of the Law, University of California, San Francisco, where she was a member of the Hastings Law Journal. She has national and international experience, having worked for the Conservancy in California, Western U.S., and Asia and the Pacific.

Case has received multiple honors for her contributions to forest and marine conservation throughout Hawai‘i, including The Garden Club of Honolulu Hui Māla Award and YWCA Leader Honoree.          

About the Hawai`i Community Foundation

With 98 years of community service, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) is the leading philanthropic institution in the state. HCF is a steward of more than 650 funds, including more than 190 scholarship funds, created by donors who desire to transform lives and improve communities. In 2013, $43 million in grants and contracts were distributed statewide, including $4 million in scholarships. HCF also serves as a resource on community issues and trends in the nonprofit sector. For more information, visit

About the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation

The San Francisco-based Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation was established in 1961 by Martha Alexander Gerbode, a descendant of one of the original five New England missionary families who came to Hawai‘i. The Gerbode Foundation makes grants of approximately $4 million a year with its activities focused in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Hawai‘i. Areas of interest include social justice, reproductive rights, the environment and the arts. Gerbode implements an award program similar to the Ho‘okele Award in the San Francisco area, called the Gerbode Foundation Professional Development Program. Started in 1990, the program is administered through the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and annually recognizes and supports five outstanding leaders among its grantees with a $10,000 individual professional development award. The program includes 120 fellows, 80 of whom are nonprofit leaders.



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