Skip to main content

Environmental Resilience Institute recognizes 2020 Hoosier Resilience Heroes

For Immediate Release Apr 14, 2020

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaching on April 22, Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute has named its annual list of Hoosier Resilience Heroes, recognizing individuals and groups statewide for their efforts to prepare Hoosiers for climate change and promote safe, healthy communities.

This year’s recipients include professionals and volunteers dedicated to sustainable agriculture, flood control, clean energy, environmental justice, and other aspects of environmental protection and resilience.

Logo with words says,

“We affect our environment, and our environment affects us,” ERI Director Janet McCabe said. “Whether it is coronavirus, climate change or corn yields, we live in interconnected systems. The better we understand these connections, the more resilient we can become to protect our health, our communities and our economy.

“In my view, these people are true heroes. Their efforts are an example for every Hoosier who cares about the health and vitality of our state and planet.”

The 2020 Hoosier Resilience Heroes are:

  • Toby Adams, an inspector with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources who works with property owners affected by environmental change to address flooding, erosion and property loss.
  • Shannon Anderson, the assistant director of Earth Charter Indiana who has helped coordinate events such as the Indiana Climate Leadership Summit and Renewable Energy Day at the Indiana Statehouse.
  • Siavash Beik, an engineer with Christopher B. Burke Engineering and a longtime advocate for resilient infrastructure design and sustainable floodplain management in Indiana.
  • Aster Bekele, the director of the Felege Hiywot Center who teaches Indianapolis youth science and leadership through gardening.
  • Dan DeSutter, a farmer in west-central Indiana who has helped educate others on the benefits of improved soil health, including benefits that help mitigate climate change.
  • Bob Glass, former leader of the Green Team at Robin Run Village and a longtime advocate for sustainable and resilient communities.
  • Caroline Nellis, founder of Tri-State Creation Care, an Evansville-based organization that brings individuals of all faiths together for environmental action.
  • Vernice Riego, a senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School who has been working with the city of Fishers to craft a climate change resolution.
  • Ethyl Ruehman, an environmental activist in northwest Indiana who coordinated a climate rally in her hometown of Portage, Indiana, and helped start the Northwest Indiana Youth Climate Council.
  • Melissa Widhalm, the operations manager for the Purdue Climate Change Research Center who has helped share Indiana-specific climate data and projected impacts with thousands of people across the state.
  • Robert Whitaker and Madeline Hirschland, co-founders of Creation Care Partners, an organization dedicated to engaging faith communities across Indiana to serve as environmental stewards.
  • Indiana-based contributors to Cummins PLANET 2050, a comprehensive plan that establishes a transparent model for the company to reduce the environmental impact of its products and operations.

These honorees represent a small slice of the work being done to make Indiana communities healthier, more sustainable and more resilient to environmental changes that affect Hoosiers’ health and livelihoods.

“A resilient Indiana is an Indiana where everyone - especially the youth - understands the importance of taking care of the place we live in and maintaining our balance with nature,” Bekele said. “We need everyone, not just a few, to care for this beautiful Earth.”

About the Prepared for Environmental Change initiative

The Indiana University Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative brings together a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit and community leaders to help Indiana better prepare for the challenges that environmental changes bring to our economy, health and livelihood. Announced in May 2017, Prepared for Environmental Change is working to deliver tailored and actionable solutions to communities across the state of Indiana.

IU Research

Indiana University’s world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Supported by $680 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe.

Media Contact

Environmental Resilience Institute

Jonathan Hines

More stories