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2011 Forty Under 40 Winner: Emily Williams-Bouska


Age 31  |  Major gifts director, Blank Park Zoo

Emily Williams-Bouska learned at a young age the importance of giving back to one’s community.

As a child, she watched a fire destroy a barn on her family’s Milford farm. The support shown by friends and neighbors in the weeks following that event made a lasting impression.

“I had an example from the whole town of what it was like to give back to your community, to be a good neighbor and to be invested in your community,” Williams-Bouska said.

A food and wine enthusiast who enjoys spending time outdoors, Williams-Bouska is also excited about her work on the board of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s Young Leaders group, which she said is dedicated to raising up a new generation of family planners.

At Blank Park Zoo, Williams-Bouska is responsible for managing a $15 million capital fund-raising campaign aimed at financing a number of expansion projects. She also works part time as a server at Mojos on 86th as her husband pursues a graduate degree at Iowa State University.

A member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Mid-Iowa Planned Giving Council and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Williams-Bouska also supports the Des Moines Social Club.

“I support them because we love what they are doing,” she said. “I think it’s a really great concept for the city, and I’m glad to see that it is here.”

“She is an absolute professional,” said MD Isley, executive director of Bravo Greater Des Moines. “Based on my experience with her, she knows nonprofit administration about as well as anybody I have ever met.”

Williams-Bouska and her husband returned to Iowa in 2008, following a 10-year hiatus.

“We were able to attract her back to Iowa,” said Isley, who supervised Williams-Bouska in her prior role as a development officer with Living History Farms. “I think she is the perfect example of young professional talent that we need to be attracting back to Iowa.”

“I’m just really excited about the direction my career is going in a place I didn’t really expect to be,” Williams-Bouska said. “It’s humbling to be honored for giving back to your community.”

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