NEFF Leadership

A Tribute to Whitney Beals

Feb. 08, 2024

Writing by NEFF Development Manager Penny Flynn

Photo by Tinsley Hunsdorfer

New England’s conservation community lost a champion in September when Whitney Beals, NEFF Board member and long-time staff member, lost his courageous fight with cancer.

Whit was not just our colleague—he was also an integral part of NEFF. His dedication, passion, and tireless efforts contributed significantly to the success and positive spirit of the organization. Whit had an unwavering belief in the power of teamwork, and was always willing to lend a helping hand or share a word of encouragement. His incredible ability to bring out the best in others with his positive attitude and infectious laugh could make anyone smile even on the most difficult days.

Whit’s career suited him to a T, and he loved his work. During his 20 years with NEFF’s conservation staff, he traveled throughout New England meeting with landowners to walk their land and discuss ways to meet their conservation goals. If he wasn’t on the road, he could be heard on the phone from his office creatively structuring an important land protection opportunity.

Whit was an attentive listener and so easy to chat with. We often joked about how Whit knew everyone! A name would come up and Whit would say, “I went to school with Bill,” or “I went on a fishing trip with Sam,” or “I served on a committee with Ann.” He remembered everyone, and they would happily take a call from Whit.

Whit retired from NEFF’s staff in 2019 and was elected to the Board in 2020. His 50-year conservation career included work with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the Roaring Brook Nature Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Town of Wayland, and Sudbury Valley Trustees. His volunteer service included the EcoTarium Board, the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition Board and Conservation Advisory Council, the Southborough Open Land Foundation Board President, Sudbury Valley Trustees Stewardship Advisory Committee, the 495/MetroWest Partnership Executive Steering Committee, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Water Supply Citizens Advisory Committee Executive Committee Chair.

Whit has made a lasting impact on our lives and communities, and left us with these valuable lessons: always be kind, there is strength in unity, and live life to the fullest.

The NEFF Community Remembers Whit

“Whit was a friend and colleague for nearly 25 years. His knowledge and experience were critical to NEFF’s mission. He was our land guy. Perhaps more than any other person, he is responsible for NEFF’s position as the fourth largest land trust in the country. That’s quite a legacy.”

–NEFF Board President Rick Weyerhaeuser

“As our first introduction to NEFF, we could not have found a better person to help us protect the Braintree Mountain Forest. Whit was delightful, thoughtful, and responsive to our desire for its preservation.”

–Paul L. Kendall and Sharon K. Rives