15th Anniversary Celebration

A county-wide mission deserves a county-wide celebration.

In 2007, a small group of persistent community members and leaders established Kosciusko Lakes & Streams.

Two name changes, 15 years and hundreds of supporters later, the Lilly Center is more innovative and focused than ever. We intentionally study the lakes and streams in Kosciusko County in-depth and over time. Paired with original K-12 and community education, we have a lot of work to do!

But we couldn’t do any of it without you.

15 pivotal moments

We’ve compiled our “top 15” highlights and arranged them in a timeline. They range from the Lakes Festival to Virtual Visits to chemical spill assessments. Click to download!

15 years of lake science

Before it became known for lake science, the Lilly Center was founded on partnership.

As a life-long Lake Wawasee resident, Frank Levinson was certain the county would benefit from an organization dedicated to lake research. The spark fanned into a blaze in 2007 during a discussion with Suzie Light, former CEO of the Kosciusko County Community Foundation (KCCF), and Dr. Ron Manahan, former president of Grace College.

“I challenged Suzie to see what KCCF could do if it funded a group for a multi-year research study,” Frank said. KCCF convened several groups and gathered information for the center. They initially called it Kosciusko Lakes & Streams. “It was not until Dr. Manahan said, ‘We can help!’ that the project really started to take form,” Suzie recalled.

Together, Frank, Suzie and Dr. Manahan searched for a way to positively (and scientifically) impact local water quality for generations to come. “It became clear that they would work with me to realize a vision for the center,” Frank said. “Once that foundation of trust and cooperation exists, magic can happen.”

Their goal? To launch a research center that would impact local lakes and streams through high-quality data, scientific education and repeatable results. Frank made the launch possible by funding a seed grant through KCCF. What would eventually become the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams shifted from an idea to reality.

Left to right: Lilly Center student team (2012); environmental science students on a lab (2014); research team members out sampling (2016)

Taking Environmental Stewardship Personally

A passion for environmental stewardship was instilled in Dr. Manahan after he wrote his 1981 doctoral dissertation; it specifically addressed biblical stewardship of the environment. Since then, he has taught, written and spoken about this topic countless times throughout his career.

“Stewardship of God’s environment has been ongoing focus in my life as a follower of God,” Dr. Manahan said. This conviction led Dr. Manahan into discussions with Suzie and Frank. He immediately caught the vision and sought to help the Lilly Center take root at Grace College. “Envisioning all this, I wanted an outcome that would honor God and spread caring stewardship for what God made,” he said.

At first, Dr. Manahan faced a deluge of questions and asked many of his own. Some thought that the research center (and a brand-new environmental science major) was a good idea but questioned its necessity at a Christian Liberal Arts college. Dr. Manahan persisted. He cast a vision for the importance of biblical environmental stewardship and identified funding sources. Soon the center had what it needed to grow.

Finding a qualified director, one who could bridge the gap between Grace College and the county, was of primary importance. “Nate Bosch so wonderfully matched what was needed during that time to the present,” Dr. Manahan said. “He has led the Lilly Center toward remarkable growth that goes well beyond what was imagined 15 years ago.”

Although he accepted the role and was able to start in early 2008, Nate was finishing his doctorate at the University of Michigan and starting a new research study on Lake Erie in 2007. “This role was a perfect fit for me with the research and education experience I gained as a PhD student and then researcher at the University of Michigan,” Nate said. Once he took the role, Nate quickly learned of other areas of growth, from leading a highly competent team to working with supporters. “I am grateful for the mentors and partners that came alongside us to help develop the Lilly Center,” he added. “Their expertise and advice have helped us succeed.”

The lapse in time allowed Luke Hunt, then a part-time environmental biology professor at Grace College, to become interim director. Over the summer of 2007, Luke led a small team of researchers from Grace College. They gathered data at numerous sites around 30 local lakes; the data was then analyzed and organized. (That study formed the basis for all other Lilly Center research and is available here.)

Luke and another team member also developed several K-12 programs, including Classroom Lake Experience, Lake Adventure Days, and the Lilly Center Art Contest. Connecting to schools was easy. The Lilly Center began working with classrooms almost right away. “Getting schools excited about the environment and teaching them about protecting God’s creation is important,” Luke explained. “The most rewarding aspect was to see the reactions of the students.” Today, he is equally encouraged by what he sees in the K-12 programs he helped form.

Left to right: Lakes Festival craft (2015); Lilly Center student team (2017); Lake Wawasee (2018); local students playing a water-related game (2019)

15 Years Later

Looking back, Frank’s perspective on the Lilly Center’s success is less about the science and more about the relationships. “This may sound simplistic, but it’s not the data or the improving lakes and streams that I’m most proud of,” he said. “It’s the ability of people across a wide political, religious and social spectrum to come together and work on this.”

Dr. Manahan agrees. “I’m most proud of the Lilly Center’s continuous development throughout the 15 years of its existence,” he said. “It has many achievements, including developing meaningful relationships across a wide spectrum of people, and being a trusted recipient of financial gifts.”

Due to Frank Levinson, Suzie Light, Dr. Manahan, Luke Hunt and countless others, the Lilly Center has been repeatedly humbled by gifts of time, finances and wisdom. These gifts have spurred our research and education to statewide acclaim and national significance. As a result, the Lilly Center has arrived at a place it only imagined 15 years ago.

We welcome you to join our team as we launch into the next 15 years. Thank you.

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