Mike Horak, Associate Director of Philanthropy

Mike Horak

Associate Director of Philanthropy (Asheville)

I grew up in the tallgrass prairies of Kansas, where my dad was an ornithologist and studied prairie chickens. I attend the University of Kansas and majored in journalism. There I became a lifelong college basketball fan.  

I worked for the Associated Press and the Kansas City Star before I took a job working for U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum in Washington, D.C. I served as her press secretary, but also handled environmental and energy legislative issues.

My wife, when I met her, worked for The Nature Conservancy and we have two daughters, Molly (15) and Isabel (13). I like to kayak, hike and mountain bike. When I was younger, I used to run marathons. I still run, but a lot slower and not nearly as far.

Year started at TNC: I recently celebrated my 13th year with TNC. The first three years I worked as the Conservancy’s Director of Media Relations in their Arlington, VA, headquarters. In 2002, I moved to Asheville to work for the North Carolina Chapter as a fundraiser. I’ve always loved the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and we felt Asheville was the perfect place to raise our daughters.

Favorite TNC Preserve and why: One of my favorite places has always been Eagle Rock, an outcrop high above The Nature Conservancy’s Rumbling Bald Preserve. It is now one of the newest additions to Chimney Rock State Park. I love the immense views, which on a clear day can include Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and views across the piedmont almost to Charlotte. I love being there in the early morning when fog settles in the valleys below and on warm afternoons when you can actually look down on raptors circling above forests that TNC has protected.

A typical good day for you at work: One of the reasons I love my job is because I get the opportunity to meet with our members almost daily. That may be on a hike, a paddling trip, or over lunch and a cup of coffee. I love to listen to the stories of our members about how they developed their conservation ethic and what inspires them to support the Conservancy. I’ve met and become friends with a lot of amazing people. I view my job as telling them “thank you” and showing them how our work is making a difference.

Place in the world you would most like to visit but have never been to: Botswana – I think there is something exciting being in a place where we are not necessarily the top of the food chain. My hope is to be able to take my wife and my teenage daughters to see lions, giraffes and zebras and remind them what we will lose without protected wild places. They understand that concept from the countless hikes we do in North Carolina, but to see it in Africa, wow! 


Mike Horak

Associate Director of Philanthropy (Asheville)


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