A message from the new Board Chair of Greenpeace

by Karen Topakian

December 3, 2010

Karen TopakianWhen I first started working for Greenpeace in 1987 on the Nuclear Free Seas campaign, I had no idea where that journey would lead me. I had hoped for nuclear disarmament. Now 23 plus years later, I have just been elected to chair the Greenpeace Inc Board of Directors.  

The journey took a few twists and turns. I met my partner of 22 years, Peg Stevenson, at Greenpeace.  Peg served as chair of the Greenpeace Inc Board in the 1990s. Soon after I started my 16-year stint as the executive director of the Agape Foundation – a job I loved. I have worked making grants to California-based nonviolent grassroots organizations that protect the environment, defend our civil and human rights and oppose war, violence and militarism, and I have served on the board of directors of the Western States Legal Foundation and the Women’s AIDS Network. Now my current occupation is as a free-lance writer and communications consultant in my own business, Topakian Communications.

All along the way I maintained my commitment and connection to Greenpeace, its values and its mission. 

Since 1994, I served in my spare time on the Greenpeace Fund board, served on and chaired the Nominations Committee for Greenpeace Inc and chaired the Finance Committee for both boards. Now I feel ready to chair the board of this organization that I love so much. 

I look forward to this new position with great excitement and enthusiasm, bringing to bear my 32 years of experience in the non-profit world as an activist, campaigner, executive director, board member, fundraiser and writer. 

I look forward to working with my fellow Greenpeace Inc Board members – Valerie Denny, Liz Gilchrist, David Hunter, Sharyle Patton, David Pellow, Dan Rudie, Bryony Schwan and Jigar Shah – who provide expertise in communications, grassroots organizing, toxics, environmental law, alternative energy, fundraising and direct action. They truly represent the best and the brightest. 

As the chair, I will assure that this Greenpeace Inc Board of Directors fulfills its responsibilities for the governance of the organization. I will also serve as a partner to Phil Radford, the executive director, helping him to achieve Greenpeace’s mission. When necessary and if required, I will gladly assist the staff with fundraising efforts, and with any other tasks that are asked of me, including participating in nonviolent direct actions – an activity that I take seriously and participate in annually. 

As chair of the Board, I will ensure that Greenpeace has the expertise, the resources and the leadership necessary to make large-scale changes that protect our oceans, forests, and climate. These problems require the full strength of the organization and our supporters. 

Before I close, let me publicly thank Donald Ross for his many years of outstanding leadership as the chair of the Greenpeace Inc Board of Directors. I will miss his insight, quick smile and straight-forward manner. It is an honor and a privilege to follow in his footsteps.

Here’s to our green and peaceful future together, 

Karen Topakian

Karen Topakian

By Karen Topakian

Karen Topakian, owner of Topakian Communications, is a writer, speaker, communications consultant and activist. Karen worked for more than 40 years in the nonprofit world, including 16 years, as the executive director at the Agape Foundation-Fund for Nonviolent Social Change. She served as board chair for Greenpeace, Inc from 2010-2018.

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