Tribute to Ken Leghorn: A Champion of Conservation and Community

Dear Friends,

Ken Leghorn ©Tom Bol, 2004
Ken Leghorn ©Tom Bol, 2004

We are deeply saddened to share that our friend and Trustee Emeritus, Ken Leghorn, passed away on April 11, 2017 after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and many friends around the country. (Ken’s full obituary can be found here.)

If there ever was an ambassador for Alaska’s wildlands, waters, and people, it was Ken. He served on the ACF board for a remarkable 17 years, many of those as chair. During his tenure, Ken worked passionately to secure adequate funding to preserve what made Alaska such a special place for him and for all of us.

Ken was a catalyst for the greater good, always walking the talk. After his time at ACF, he went on to help start and even lead the Juneau Community Foundation (JCF). On March 1, 2017, in the presence of his beloved family and a heartwarming, standing-room-only crowd at the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau, Ken and his lifetime of achievements were honored, and JCF bestowed him with their Founders’ Award.

We want to share some of the moving speeches made by Ken’s long-time friends, including Lt. Governor Byron Mallot and fellow ACF Emeritus Trustee, Sam Skaggs—and by Ken himself. The speeches can be found here at minutes 3:45, 10:51 and 25:27, respectively.

Ken believed in the power of “giving big” to make a lasting impact. At the gathering, he spoke from his heart about what philanthropy means to him (this starts at minute 27:06):

“…it’s investments in ideas, but it’s really investments in people, the people that are going to bring those ideas to fruition. The results are a better life, better community, I would say a better Earth, but I don’t think we can improve on the one we’ve got. And along the way, there is just incredible meaning and amazing friendships that develop, and it leads to a result like this gathering of people that share the same values.”

Ken also believed strongly that to keep Alaska’s natural environment and our communities strong requires an ongoing investment in the next generation of Alaska conservation leaders.

He demonstrated this commitment when he established the Leghorn Family Internship Fund at Alaska Conservation Foundation to help ensure a long-term source of support for Alaskan interns participating in ACF’s Ted Smith Conservation Internship Program, which was near and dear to his heart. Since it began over 15 years ago, hundreds of young leaders from around the country have participated in this life-changing opportunity, and are now making their own mark on the conservation movement.

Those of us who were privileged enough to know and work alongside Ken have lost a dear friend and role model. Ken’s enduring gifts of vision, kindness and generosity will continue to inspire us to, simply—be like Ken.


Michael Barber


If you would like to contribute to the Leghorn Family Internship Fund in Ken’s memory, please click here. Please indicate that you would like your gift to go to the “Leghorn Fund” and we will ensure that his family receives notification of your generosity.

Giving by mail or phone:

Alaska Conservation Foundation
1227 W. 9th Avenue, Suite 300
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 276-1917

For more information, please contact ACF’s Philanthropy Manager at 907-276-1917 or at