New challenges require new voices: Friends of the Apostle Islands welcomes new board members

Friends Board Members Neil and Jess

January 12, 2023

Friends of the Apostle Islands, the official nonprofit philanthropic partner of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, recently announced the selection of two new members to join its board of directors.

“Friends is proud to announce the addition of both Neil Howk and Jess Nuutinen to our board,” Executive Director Jeff Rennicke recently said.

Neil Howk and Jess Nuutinen enjoying the outdoors

Both new members bring with them deep connections to the Apostle Islands.

Jess Nuutinen, currently a Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at Ashland’s Memorial Medical Center, has the islands woven deeply into her family history.

“I have a family connection to the origination of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore,” she says. “My grandfather, Dr. Bruce Culver Prentice, worked with Martin Hanson (and other political figures) to persuade President Kennedy to initiate the protection the Apostle Islands in the 1960’s. I would like to continue my grandfather’s love of the outdoors by contributing my efforts as a board member for Friends.”

For Neil Howk, the islands have also been a family affair. “It was 40 years ago this month that my bride-to-be and I moved to Bayfield, sight unseen, seeking a place to make our new home,” Howk says. “I feel blessed that we serendipitously found this place, its people, and the park. Bayfield and the Apostle Islands have been an amazing place to live, work, and raise a family. Now that I have retired from the National Park Service, I think that working with the Friends is a good way to use my 40 years of experience and institutional memory to help write Apostle Islands National Lakeshore’s next chapter.”

Since retiring from the National Park Service, Neil has worked as the Friends 50th Anniversary Coordinator, wrote the popular “Lakeshore Logbook” series for our website, and recently traveled to Colombia to share his decades of national park management and interpretation with the national park system there.

“The appointments of both Neil and Jess represent a strong combination of experience, connection to the islands, important skills, and strong voices for both our organization and the islands.”

Jeff Rennicke

Executive Director, Friends of the Apostle islands National Lakeshore

Executive Director Jeff Rennicke added, “The addition of both Jess and Neil position us well as we continue to grow our organization to take on new challenges including our Access for All initiative aimed at making the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore one of the most accessible national park units in the country.”

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore can be reached at P.O. Box 1574, Bayfield, WI 54814, (715) 449-6900, or by email at


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