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Aldon Knight to assume Executive Director role at Upstate Forever this Spring - February 13th 2024

Current ED Andrea Cooper will stay engaged with the organization, focusing on strategy, special projects, and donor relations 

On behalf of local conservation nonprofit Upstate Forever (UF) and its board of directors, Executive Director Andrea Cooper has announced that Aldon Knight will succeed her in the organization’s lead role in spring of 2024. Knight has served UF since 2015 as Director of Development and Community Relations. Cooper will remain at UF in a new position focusing on strategy, donor relations, and special projects.

Knight brings to the Executive Director role a total of 34 years in administration, leadership, and fund development roles. His achievements in his current role include establishing the Wyche Society major gift program, cultivating strategic planned giving, and orchestrating the successful $8 million “Crossroads” capital campaign. He is native to Upstate South Carolina and grew up playing in its forests, fields, and waters.

Working alongside Cooper, the UF board made the decision to promote Knight after forming a transition committee and working with a consultant to determine the skillset needed in an Executive Director to serve the organization in its next phase. Knight met all the criteria and received unanimous support from the board in a vote last November.

“The UF board has driven each step of this process and is fully supportive of this plan,” said UF Board Chair John Keith. “We are very fortunate to have an internal leader like Aldon who is well-equipped, energized, and perfectly poised to take on the Executive Director role. It allows us to capitalize on our momentum and demonstrates that we’re a mature, thriving organization with the ability to promote from within. Andrea has done so much for Upstate Forever, and we’re thankful that she will remain engaged and continue to support its critical work.”

Cooper joined UF in 2015, becoming the first Executive Director to follow in the footsteps of founder Brad Wyche. Under her leadership, the organization has grown from 17 to 26 employees; realized an additional 17,000+ acres of Upstate land conserved through easements and partner projects; worked on efforts to secure millions of new dollars in funding for land protection; prevented an unnecessary transmission line that would have sliced through the Blue Ridge Mountains; established a $1.5 million water quality fund in Anderson County using settlement funds from a lawsuit over the Kinder Morgan petroleum spill; and helped spearhead the transformational Saluda Grade Trail project. 

“After 8+ years leading UF through a period of exciting and intense growth, the organization is in a strong, stable position, and the timing is right for me to hand over the reins. I couldn’t ask for a better successor than Aldon,” said Cooper. “I'm looking forward to stepping into a new role and continuing to support our important mission.”

“Andrea has been a visionary leader for this organization, which is no easy task.” said Knight. “I am grateful for her leadership and support as we begin this transition process and look forward to serving the organization in my new role.”

Cooper said the news has been shared with staff, major donors, conservation partners, and other primary stakeholders, who have also been fully supportive of the plan. “I’ve worked closely with Aldon through the years, and in that time have developed a deep respect for the way he approaches issues, supports staff, and works effectively with donors, board members, and external partners,” she said. “The board and I are confident that he has the skills, knowledge, connections, and temperament to keep building on the strong foundation we have laid together."

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