Conservation Foundation Honors JJC with Sustainable Development Award


Pictured: Biology Professor and Conservation Foundation Volunteer Cheryl Heeneman; Sustainability Coordinator and Architecture Professor Maria Anna Rafac; Biology Professor, former chair of the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission and Conservation Foundation volunteer Lee Neary, and Conservation Program Manager Jim Kleinwachter.

The Conservation Foundation honored Joliet Junior College with a Sustainable Development Award to recognize several of the college’s environmentally sustainable features, including its arboretum, natural landscaping and restoration of its savanna, wetland, prairie and forested areas, as well as its LEED greenhouse, low emission parking, and recycling programs.

Professors Maria Anna Rafac, Cheryl Heeneman and Lee Neary accepted the award at the Conservation’s annual awards dinner on behalf of JJC. This prestigious award is presented once a year to organizations, institutions and facilities in Illinois.

“The Joliet Junior College campus is a model of sustainability,” Conservation Program Manager Jim Kleinwachter said. “Students and visitors have an opportunity to study while surrounded with the beauty of nature.”

Some of the sustainable features on campus include:

  • 124 acres of natural landscaping
  • 65 acres of savanna, wetland, and prairie undergoing restoration
  • A robust recycling program that has seen a 57 percent decrease in waste since 1987
  • Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) registered greenhouse with a rain harvesting system
  • LEED Gold Certified Health Profession Center that is 30 percent more energy efficient than standard construction
  • Low emission parking with charging stations for electric vehicles
  • 16-acre arboretum on campus
  • Calcareous Fen on campus, with water drainage into Rock Run Creek

In addition, to these features, JJC offers 18 sustainability courses for students and one six-week sustainability course for faculty.

Neary, a biology professor and Conservation Foundation volunteer, said she has seen a lot of development on campus since she started teaching at JJC in 1991.

“We received this award thanks to the efforts of many people. There are so many people involved from so many different departments, including faculty, students, staff and members of the community,” she said.

Heeneman agreed. She is also a biology professor and Conservation Foundation volunteer. “This award was unexpected but a great recognition. We are excited to continue to build our partnership with the Foundation,” she said.

Some of the individuals who have contributed to sustainability throughout the years at JJC include:

  • Maria Anna Rafac, professor and JJC sustainability coordinator
  • William Zales, professor and former Natural Sciences and Physical Education department chair
  • Andy Neill, professor and Natural Areas Committee co-chair
  • John Griffis, professor and Natural Areas Committee co-chair
  • Eva Murdoch, professor and Natural Sciences club adviser
  • Lee Neary, professor, former chair of the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission and Conservation Foundation volunteer
  • Cheryl Heeneman, professor and Conservation Foundation volunteer
  • Lisa Perkins, professor and arboretum volunteer
  • Virginia Piekarski, biology lab supervisor, Lake Committee chair and director of the Trees for Tomorrow Program
  • Richard Wachenheim, Natural Areas steward
  • Richard Rivera and JJC Facility Services
  • The Will County Forest Preserve

The Conservation Foundation is one of the region’s largest and oldest private conservation organizations, with more than 4,000 members and donors, and more than 500 volunteers who contribute 20,000 hours per year. For more information about the Conservation Foundation, visit

For more information about sustainability at JJC, visit

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