2014 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner, David Muraki

David Muraki 
California Conservation Corps


Click here to Read an Interview with
David Muarki 

David is the first Director of the California Conservation Corps to have “risen from the ranks.”  He initially joined the CCC in January 1978, spending over 60 weeks living out of a tent and supervising three trail crews in the
backcountry of Yosemite National Park. In 1979, he started the CCC’s iconic Backcountry Trails Project that has gone on to field 176 crews, build and maintain 10,840 miles of trails in national and state parks, forests, and wilderness areas throughout the state.  At the CCC’s Del Norte Center, David founded the salmon and steelhead restoration program that received the Robert Rodale/Renew America Award for the top fisheries conservation program in the nation and the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. 

David served on the staff of the CCC in numerous capacities until 1996. From ‘96 until his return to the CCC in 2007, David served as deputy director for California Volunteers, where he led public policy efforts and supported AmeriCorps national service and disaster volunteer programs. Upon David’s return to the CCC as Director, he soon became the Chair of The Corps Network’s Corps Council and was appointed to the federal advisory committee on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC).  In addition, he serves on the California Biodiversity Council and the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council.

David’s extraordinary dedication to the Corps is due, in part, to his deep program knowledge and love of young people; David’s experience as a crew supervisor, project coordinator and center director at a CCC center provide him the “street cred” to engender loyalty and respect from field staff and Corpsmembers.  

Boiler Plate: 
David is the first Director of the California Conservation Corps to have “risen from the ranks.” He initially joined the CCC in January 1978, spending over 60 weeks living out of a tent and supervising three trail crews in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. In 1979, he started the CCC’s iconic Backcountry Trails Project that has gone on to field 176 crews, build and maintain 10,840 miles of trails in national and state parks, forests, and wilderness areas throughout the state.

The Corps Network Honors the Winners of the 2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award

The Winners of the 2013 Corps Legacy Acheivement Award.
Left to Right: John Irish, Marilee Eckert, Ira Okun.

On the night of Sunday, February 10th we honored our three winners of the 2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award. This award recognizes leaders who have contributed to the Corps movement for approximately 20 or more years by serving in a senior leadership position of a corps or multiple corps, or by otherwise making Corps more effective (for instance, we have honored those who founded a corps, brought a corps to scale, made a significant national contribution through developing a national project, etc.). This year’s recipients of the Corps Legacy Achievement Award were John Irish, Marilee Eckert, and Ira Okun.

John Irish was selected for this award for his involvement in the creation and leadership of numerous Arizona-based Corps, and for his dedication to promoting Corps and Corps-friendly legislation. Here he accepts  the award from Miquelle Scheier, Program Manager at Coconino Rural Environment Corps. 



Marilee Eckert was selected for this award for her outstanding leadership of Conservation Corps North Bay for more than 20 years. Here she accepts the award from David Muraki, Director of the California Conservation Corps.



Ira Okun was chosen for the award for his many years of service as a consultant to The Corps Network and a number of our member Corps. Here he accepts the award from John Leong, Executive Director of KUPU Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps.

2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winner, John Irish


In 1972, John Irish took a position working with at-risk youth for the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. This experience started John’s 39 year career of promoting, designing, developing, and implementing corps programs across the state of Arizona. As said by Miquelle Sheier, program manager of Coconino Rural Environment Corps, “We, Arizona and the Nation, owe John a debt of gratitude for the…public and private support he has generated during his years of service in support…and preservation of corps programs.”
After leaving his position with the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, John took a job with the US Forest Service. John was employed by the Forest Service in one capacity or another from 1977 to March 2005. During this nearly 30 year career, John worked with the Forest Service National Job Corps office on several projects designed to develop relationships between various youth corps programs and Job Corps centers. John was at one point responsible for providing support for senior, youth and volunteer programs in four National Forests. He was also responsible for the start up, supervision and coordination of numerous corps programs and work projects. John helped set up and was Director of a Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) program and helped set up several Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs in Arizona. He also established the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). John served as the Director of CREC from 1996 to 1999 and returned as Interim Director in 2005 and 2006.The organization celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012.
Additionally, John has been involved in the design, development and implementation of several AmeriCorps programs. This includes Team USDA Arizona, and Youth-In-Action AmeriCorps, which is currently the longest running and largest AmeriCorps program in Arizona.
John’s commitment to youth, conservation and service has been influential in building support for the Corps Movement and in establishing Corps legislation at the state and national levels. In 1985, it was John’s work with Arizona State Representative Karan English that resulted in the passage of House Bill 2654, which established funding for a conservation corps program in Arizona. This bill literally launched the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and provided support and funding for corps programs throughout the state. John’s efforts fostered a powerful grass roots movement that united citizens and organizations throughout Arizona in supporting youth and environment. The Arizona Conservation Corps was recognized by the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC, now The Corps Network) as “A Model of Federal-State Cooperation.”
In 2004, John worked with Arizona congressional candidate, and former Coconino County Supervisor, Paul Babbitt, to support US Senator John Kerry in announcing the Forest Restoration Program that included about a hundred million dollars for an environmental corps.
John served on The Corps Network (then called NASCC) Board of Directors from 1993 to 1996. He has been an active member of The Corps Network for over 20 years. Since 2005, John has served as the Chairman of Southwest Conservation Corps’s (SCC) Four Corners Board of Directors, Secretary of SCC’s Executive Board of Directors, and is the current Chairman of SCC's Board of Directors.
When asked what keeps him so passionate about the Corps movement after all this time, John says, “Because this is good stuff.” John’s vision and contributions to the Corps movement have definitely brought the “good stuff” to numerous communities and thousands of youth and young adults.

2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winner, Ira Okun

Much of Ira Okun’s career has been dedicated to serving youth and improving communities. Ira began his career as a caseworker for Los Angeles County in 1955. He eventually became a probation officer, and later served as the Superintendant of Marin County’s Juvenile Hall. After years of working in the youth correctional field, however, Ira decided he wanted to work in prevention programs.

Following his service as the Deputy Director of Peace Corps operations in Ghana from 1968 to 1971, Ira took a series of leadership positions at various California-based nonprofit organizations serving youth and families. For more than four years he was the Executive Director of the Charila Foundation, which offered a residential program for troubled teenage girls. He also spent over two years as the Executive Director of Coleman Children and Youth Services, advocating for neglected and abused children. Ira then spent 13 years serving as the CEO of Family Service Agency of San Francisco, a multi-program human service agency with over 16,000 clients in 28 different service systems.

After Ira retired from the Family Service Agency in 1990, he formed Nonprofit Organization Services. Through NPOS, Ira has spent the last two decades consulting numerous nonprofit organizations, including The Corps Network and many individual Corps. Ira provided the impetus and foundational work for the development of The Corps Network’s Excellence in Corps Operations (ECO) Standards Process. In 1993, Ira became the founding president of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps (CALCC), which has allowed the California Corps movement to double in size from 7 Corps at CALCC’s inception to the 14 Corps located throughout California today. CALCC has been an effective advocate for Corps and has helped generate much needed income for improving and expanding programs for at-risk youth.

Ira has earned his reputation as the preeminent national expert and consultant to the Corps community in areas such as strategic planning, growth management, and organizational development. Beginning in 1993, Ira has made annual visits to consult with Civic Works in Baltimore. His insight and suggestions have helped improve Civic Works’ programs, operating mechanisms, and finances. Ira’s wisdom has also been beneficial to the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps. His guidance helped the executive team of HYCC develop a larger non-profit called KUPU, which today serves thousands of individuals in Hawaii.

In addition to his service to Civic Works and HYCC, Ira has had a major impact on the development of numerous other Corps programs, including San Francisco Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, American YouthWorks, Los Angeles Conservation Corps,Utah Conservation Corps, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, and the Colorado Youth Corps Association. He also long been someone The Corps Network has turned to for suggestions.

Ira has graciously provided his wisdom and experience to so many, and his actions have created tremendous ripples in the conservation and non-profit communities nationwide. His life has impacted thousands and thousands of individuals who are probably not even aware of his numerous and significant contributions to the Corps movement.  As said by John Leong, Executive Director of KUPU, “Ira is a living gem.”


2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winner, Marilee Eckert


When Marilee Eckert joined Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB) in 1992, it was a relatively small, Marin County-based organization with a budget of $1.2 million. Under Marilee’s leadership, CCNB has grown to a $7 million organization serving over 300 youth annually in Marin and Sonoma Counties. Many of the programs that Marilee pioneered at CCNB have been duplicated by other Corps throughout the nation and in countries around the world.

Marilee’s decisions helped keep CCNB financially and structurally stable during tough economic times. In December 2008, California froze all state bonds, significantly impacting CCNB’s budget. Marilee worked with her team to reduce costs and found other funding opportunities to fill in the gap. In July 2009, CCNB was hit with a dramatic reduction in recycling funding (CCNB traditionally relies on a $1.5 million annual grant from California’s Bottle Bill). Marilee worked tirelessly with the state Corps association and legislators in Sacramento and eventually recovered most of the cut funds. She turned this setback into a learning experience for Corpsmembers by taking them to Sacramento and including them in high-level decision making that would affect the future of all of all non-profit corps throughout California.

Marilee has consistently focused on making sure CCNB has a diverse funding base. Over the past two years CCNB has concentrated on increasing foundation, corporate, and individual donations. Marilee was directly responsible for opening the door for 71 percent of CCNB’s 2010-2011 budget of $6.5 million.

It was under Marilee’s strong leadership that CCNB successfully expanded its geographical boundaries and rebranded itself as Conservation Corps North Bay (the organization was previously called Marin County Conservation Corps). She also established a Sonoma County base from which she could forge local partnerships and launch a Conservation Corps program.

Following the 1997 Marin County Agricultural Summit, CCNB was called upon to establish an educational farm in the Highway 101 corridor. Marilee thus became responsible for spearheading a landmark collaboration that led to the development of the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden. Shortly after the farm was established, it was chosen as one of The Corps Network’s Projects of the Year in 2009. It is considered a model program for how to address a community’s food security challenges in an environmentally sound manner.

Marilee’s leadership has extended well beyond CCNB. She has served for 12 years as a Board Member of The Corps Network, including two years as Chair. She is Chair of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps, is an active member of the Public Lands Service Coalition, and has served as a Commissioner of the Marin County Economic Commission (Chair 2007-2009). Most recently, Marilee was inducted into the Marin Women's Hall of Fame for her extraordinary achievements on behalf of disenfranchised youth. She was also named the 2011 Environmental Hero of North Bay by California State Assemblyman Jared Huffman. She is a proven and determined advocate for youth and the Conservation Corps model, making her well known to public officials and leaders on a local, state, and national level.  Marilee has never hesitated to step up and travel to Sacramento or Washington, D.C. to meet with leaders to advocate for the important role Corps can play in developing youth and helping make our environment healthier and our communities stronger.

With her guidance, CCNB has become a place where youth can succeed, earn their high school diplomas, and apply their talents working on habitat restoration. Marilee has a reputation as a dynamic and effective leader because she successfully balances objectivity with equity, compassion, and humor, and because she always puts the Corpsmembers at the center of her decision-making.