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OWAA announces 2012 honorary award recipients

Five earned special recognition Sept. 6 during the concluding banquet at OWAA’s 85th annual conference in Fairbanks, Alaska

At its recent annual conference in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, “The Voice of the Outdoors,” honored five members with its most distinguished awards.

2012 Jade of Chiefs Award

Dave Richey of Buckley, Mich., received OWAA’s top conservation award, the Jade of Chiefs Award. Award recipients exemplify OWAA’s adherence to and support of the principles of conservation. During the last 40 years, Richey has written for 250 magazines and authored 24 books, successfully working into his writing a strong wildlife conservation theme. Among many articles written, some of his conservation writing includes undercover work exposing a poaching gang in Michigan, helping the Michigan Department of Natural Resources retain management control over the black bear, and the need for forest fires on the nesting success of the endangered Kirkland Warblers. He is the retired outdoor editor of the Detroit News. “For Dave Richey, conservation of our natural resources is more than just words. It is what he believes with all his heart. He fights for what he knows is right. He seldom talks about the impacts his writing has had on Michigan’s conservation efforts, but I know that it has made a difference,” said Conservation Officer Michael L. Borkovich.

2012 J. Hammond Brown Memorial Award

Mark LaBarbera, of Hazel Green, Wis., was honored with the J. Hammond Brown Memorial Award. The award is OWAA’s most prestigious recognition of a member “for devoted past service to the organization over a period of continuous years.” LaBarbera served as OWAA president in 1995-96 and is a Life Member; he joined the organization in 1980. Glenn Sapir, past president and nomination committee member said of LaBarbera: “Mark was a phenom of sorts, serving OWAA as a board member and all of the officers’ chairs, including serving as the youngest president … in OWAA history. [In] marketing and P.R. positions … Mark made sure that these organizations supported OWAA. In all of the positions in which Mark has served, [he] has brought a high level of professionalism and dignity to himself, his employers, clients and OWAA.”

2012 Excellence in Craft Award

Thayne Smith, of Claremore, Okla., received OWAA’s Excellence in Craft Award. The award honors an OWAA member “for outstanding effort in upholding the OWAA Creed and continued excellence in craft.” Smith’s work spans more than 50 years and his writing has appeared in more than 25 publications, including Outdoor Life, Gray’s, Field & Stream, and Sports Afield to name a few, and has been an editor of several publications. He’s served as a mentor to many OWAA members since joining the organization in 1964. “…Whatever Thayne sets his mind to, it gets done in grand fashion… He truly is a master at everything he turns his hand to… Whatever he does, his Excellence in Craft shows through,” said David Richey, past recipient and member of the nomination committee.

2012 Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award

Kaye Upgren of Bismarck, N.D., is the 2012 recipient of the Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award. The Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award originated in 1998, and recipients exhibit the qualities of the award’s namesake in exemplifying warmth and radiance, goodwill, helpfulness, generosity and kindness to others. The wife of OWAA Past President Ted Upgren, Kaye was instrumental in helping coordinate the 2008 Bismarck conference in which her husband served as local chair. “…Kaye had been such a wonderful asset to OWAA. She gave richly of her time and was an integral part of the planning and success of the conference in North Dakota. The committee also recognized the support she gave to Ted during his OWAA presidency. Kaye was always there with her smile and generous spirit and the committee is very excited to nominate her,” said Andrea Rhoades, 2011 recipient and chair of the nominating committee.

2012 Board Member of the Year

For the second year in a row, Matt Miller of Boise, Idaho, received the Board Member of the Year honor. Miller was instrumental in developing OWAA’s 2012-2015 Strategic Plan and consistently offers thoughtful dialog on a number of important issues facing the association including the revision to the membership criteria. He has served on the OWAA Board of Directors since 2009, and contributed to the OWAA Strategic Planning and Membership Criteria Review Committees during the past year. Miller’s articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Living Bird, Sports Afield, Bugle, Mule Deer, Grist and many others. He has traveled around the world in search of wildlife and stories.

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