April 8, 2015 at 6:00pm

World-Renowned Environmentalist

Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters (LL&W), has dedicated his life to cleaning up and preserving our nation's rivers. He will discuss his journey on Monday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Shilling Hall's Albert Taylor Theatre on Millikin University's campus. This event is free and open to the public; no reservations or tickets required.

The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke's backyard while growing up outside of Hampton, Ill. The son of educators and river enthusiasts, KeeKee and Gary Pregracke, Chad and his older brother, Brent, spent the majority of their time on, in, and around the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

During his summer breaks from high school and college, Pregracke worked on the river 'ˆ’ primarily as a commercial shell diver for the cultured pearl industry, but also as a commercial fisherman and barge hand. It was during this time that Pregracke began to realize how neglected the rivers were, with the unsightly and toxic accumulation of trash along their banks. At the age of 17, he started making calls to government agencies to notify them of the problem, assuming someone would take care of it. Years passed by and the problem only worsened.

In 1998, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization based in East Moline, Ill. LL&W hosts river cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives, workshops, tree plantings and other key conservation efforts. Today, the organization has grown to include 13 full-time employees and an equipment base of four barges, two towboats, six workboats, five trucks, a semi, a crane and two skid loaders. With this equipment, the crew is able to travel and work in an average of seven states a year along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Delaware Rivers, as well as many of their largest tributaries.

Since the project's inception, Pregracke, his crew, and nearly 70,000 volunteers have collected over 7.5 million pounds of debris from our nation's greatest rivers. Pregracke has also expanded the mission of the organization to include Big River Educational Workshops for teachers and students aboard a floating classroom, The MillionTrees Project, and the Adopt-a-River Mile programs.

Pregracke's vision, charisma, non-stop work ethic and natural leadership have garnered him an abundance of awards and honors over the years. Most notably, Pregracke was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service in June 2002, recognized at the Points of Light Tribute in Washington, D.C. and chosen as the CNN Hero of the Year in December 2013.

For more information on Living Lands & Waters, visit livinglandsandwaters.org.

Pregracke's appearance is Millikin University's 2015 James W. Moore Lecture. The lecture was established in 1991 to honor the late James W. Moore of Decatur. Moore's children, Madeline and James "Mac" Moore, created the endowed fund to present speakers on campus who represent "innovative or progressive political or artistic views."