By Matt Sinclair ’90
A circuitous path that has included environmental reporting, politics, and fundraising led Kristine Zeigler ’96 back to her native California as director of philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental nonprofit in the country.
“It’s a strange journey I never would have imagined prior to college,” says Zeigler, an art graduate who took advantage of the many opportunities at Lafayette to explore, study, and create, including being editor of The Lafayette and performing in College Theater productions.
A particular openness to adventure was spurred on by words she heard during first-year orientation: “Now that you’re here, identify what you want to fix and come up with a solution.”
The words inspired her to “try on” who she is and express her personality. Several professors helped her turn a concern about coming from a provincial background into an awareness of its value.
“It made me realize I had something to contribute,” she says, particularly mentioning Lawrence Taylor, former associate professor of anthropology and sociology, and Stephen Lammers, Manson Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies.
With a desire to become a reporter, Zeigler landed a job in Washington, D.C., with King Publishing and Inside Washington, news organizations focused on electricity deregulation, toxic waste sites, and superfund laws. She interviewed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, attended press conferences involving Vice President Al Gore, and covered a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.
She appreciated the complexity and challenge of analyzing and simplifying issues in order to write about them in a way that would be easily understood by readers. Tackling topics in the political arena also enabled her to overcome reluctance about approaching people in power.
While Zeigler enjoyed working as a reporter, something seemed missing. She followed the advice of a colleague who suggested pursuing a field of interest during her free time. “I got a job as a grant writer for an animal shelter,” she says. And that experience led to a position as development project manager for the San Francisco Zoo. Later, she grafted her fundraising know-how with knowledge of environmental politics and writing as director of development for Yosemite Conservancy.
Today, in her role at the Nature Conservancy, she helps philanthropists who’ve made their fortunes on Wall Street or in business use their wealth to preserve the environment.
“I’ve realized over time that I can help make their dreams come true in the world,” she says. “They need charities to translate their dreams into reality. They need people who do the work they believe in.”
Lately, she has also been working to bring her own dreams to reality. She is preparing her first collection of short stories, which she hopes to get published, while also taking flying lessons to become a pilot.
“I love looking down and seeing Mona Lake in Owens Valley near where I grew up, and Lake Tahoe,” she says.
Although not part of her job, flying gives Zeigler a perspective that helps her literally see the value of what her work accomplishes.
Zeigler and her husband, Joseph McCrossen ’95, have stayed connected to the College. They performed several scenes during the Café des Arts held during Reunion 2006, including one from her original script, Wheat Closed.