The National Audubon Society hosted its Annual Gala Dinner last night at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. The organization awarded two of the nation’s most prestigious environmental honors: the Audubon Medal and the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership. Businessman and philanthropist Dan W. Lufkin was awarded the Audubon Medal, and conservationist and former president of The Nature Conservancy Patrick F. Noonan received the $100,000 Lufkin Prize.
David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society served as the evening’s emcee and introduced the two honorees by saying: “These two men are a part of a larger story — a story about a handful of leaders who built America’s environmental movement — and on whose shoulders we stand. A life’s work is a legacy only if others carry it forward, and they have. You can see Dan’s and Pat’s values in Audubon’s work and in the work of so many other organizations here tonight.”
Holt Thrasher, National Audubon Society’s board chairman, presented Dan Lufkin with the Audubon Medal for his dedication to the environment and fervent support for the National Audubon Society. The Audubon Medal is one of the highest honors in conservation and is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of conservation and environmental protection. Since its creation in 1947, only 52 people have received the Audubon Medal, including Rachel Carson, Robert Redford, Ted Turner, Edward O. Wilson, Julie Packard, the Rockefeller family, and Donal C. O'Brien, Jr. among others.
“I'm deeply honored to receive the Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society, which is an effective and innovative leader in the conservation field,” said Dan Lufkin. “Like those who've received this great honor before me, I believe fighting for a healthy environment is a key challenge of our time, and I'm doing my best to do my part. I hope the occasion of this award will inspire others to join me and Audubon and all the others out there working toward these goals.”
The newly created Lufkin Prize was established last year by Dan Lufkin’s family in recognition of his lifetime commitment to the environment. The prize is meant to honor individuals who have dedicated their lives to on-the-ground conservation. The award was presented to Patrick F. Noonan by Nathaniel P. Reed, former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Patrick Noonan announced during his acceptance speech that he would be donating his $100,000 Lufkin Prize to the Donal C. O'Brien, Jr. Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island, named in honor of Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., who was instrumental in arranging the donation of the nearly 3,000 acres in North Carolina, in order to create the state’s first Audubon center.
The National Audubon Society took a moment early on in the evening’s program to pay a touching tribute to Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., a longtime supporter and 25-year board member of the National Audubon Society, who passed away in September 2013. During his tenure, O’Brien co-chaired the Society's monumental strategic planning process to "connect people with nature." The plan led to the establishment of Audubon's network of state offices across the country. These offices, in turn, launched the Important Bird Areas program—there are now nearly 2,700 IBAs nationwide—and helped open 43 new Audubon centers. These centers reach a diverse array of new and younger audiences and inspire future conservation leaders.
The evening welcomed 400 guests and raised $1.5 million for the National Audubon Society.
Guests included: Jane Alexander, Dan W. Lufkin, Patrick F. Noonan, Kelly Rutherford, Richard Kind, Betsey Johnson, Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee, WNBC’s Ben Aaron, Nathaniel P. Reed, Holt Thrasher, David Yarnold, Leonard Lauder, Alexis Maybank, Allison Rockefeller, Jayni Chase and more.
Photographs available from David J. Ringer (firstname.lastname@example.org) 212-979-3062.