On February 7 at the Plaza Hotel, the National Audubon Society hosted its annual 2019 Audubon Gala to celebrate the shared core value of environmental conservation and the people who, through personal commitment to the environment, inspire a new generation of conservation leaders. Hosted by notable actress and National Audubon Society board member Lili Taylor, with performances by distinguished country music singer John Anderson, the renowned gala honored two environmental stewards who have committed their lives to conservation with two prestigious awards – the Audubon Medal and the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership.
Previously awarded to the likes of Walt Disney, Rachel Carson and former president Jimmy Carter, one of Audubon’s most prestigious honors in conservation, the Audubon Medal, was presented to the founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris and Family. For decades, Morris has worked with presidential administrations to advance significant conservation issues and inspired his children to follow in his conservation footsteps, both in their business endeavors and philanthropy. Most recently, Morris founded the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium – the largest, most immersive conservation attraction in the world – in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri to allow new audiences, particularly younger generations, to discover nature and the outdoors.
The Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership honored J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D., alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology, master teacher and certified wildlife biologist at Clemson University, for his lifelong dedication to on-the-ground conservation. During his twenty years at Clemson, Dr. Lanham led groundbreaking research to understand the impacts of forest management on wildlife as well as explored the relationship between humans and nature. As an acclaimed author and poet, a member of the Audubon Board of Directors, and chair of the Advisory Board of Audubon South Carolina, Lanham is a trailblazer inspiring a new and diverse generation of conservationists within the Audubon and environmental communities.
In addition, the event raised a record-breaking $2.5M in charitable donations, which will fund conservation efforts across the country. The avian-inspired evening highlighted the beauty of birds and the natural habitats that they depend on nationwide, from elegant ponds on guests’ tables with Gadwall Duck decoys to a projection of an aerial spectacle of realistic Ospreys, Bald Eagles and American White Pelicans flying across the ceiling of the Plaza Hotel Ballroom.