D36 Alum Leads Rainforest Conservation and Entrepreneurial Endeavors in Ecuador
A passionate conservationist, global adventurer, and avid surfer, D36 alum Jerry Toth (Washburne Class of 1992) is making a meaningful difference in the world. After graduating from Cornell University with a B.A. in Economics, Toth worked on Wall Street but decided to pursue other challenges. He channeled his interest in environmentalism into co-founding a non-profit organization called Third Millennium Alliance, which established the Jama-Coaque Reserve in 2007 in order to protect 1,400 acres of rainforest and cloud forest in coastal Ecuador. Toth serves as Director of the organization, which has planted over 15,000 trees and continues to make an impact protecting the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest and empowering local communities to restore deforested land.
“I had always been smitten by forests...I was living in Ecuador and I could see the forests were disappearing, and I wanted to do something about it. It wasn’t just me. It was a group of us, and we did it,” he says.
Toth is also using his dynamic entrepreneurial and leadership skills as Chief Strategy Officer for To’ak Chocolate, a company he founded in order to partner with local farmers, conservationists, and multiple universities to protect the world's oldest and rarest variety of cacao and nurse it back from the brink of extinction.
Toth attended Crow Island School and fondly recalls Pioneer Day, a KW teacher who “made school feel like an adventure,” and remembers “creativity was given free reign” in art class. “When I arrived in college, I felt much more prepared than most of the other students...The Winnetka Public Schools had trained me well. Most people in the world don’t have the benefit of starting off with such a strong foundation.” He notes, “the most important tools for the students of today, yesterday, and tomorrow are a broad perspective, an open mind, creativity, passion, and an ability to work with other people.”
Reflecting on his unconventional career path, Toth shares, “The idea of saving the whole world seemed too daunting a task, so instead I focused on saving one very special little part of it. It’s a dream job!”