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OWAA announces 2016 honorary award recipients

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

  • J. Hammond Brown Memorial Award = Tom Wharton, of West Jordan, Utah
  • Excellence in Craft Award = W. Glenn Titus, of Troy, Montana
  • Jade of Chiefs Award = Larry Stone, of Elkader, Iowa
  • Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award = Thayne Smith, of Claremore, Oklahoma
  • Outstanding Board Member = Tom Keer, of Wellfleet, Massachusetts

J. Hammond Brown Memorial Award
Tom Wharton Lisa BallardTom Wharton, of West Jordan, Utah, received the 2016 Ham Brown Award. This award is OWAA’s most prestigious recognition of a member for devoted past service to the organization over a period of continuous years.

Tom Wharton, a writer at the Salt Lake City Tribune, joined OWAA in 1981 and his talent earned him a string of awards in the Excellence in Craft contests.

Wharton revved up his OWAA involvement in 1988 and didn’t slow down for more than 20 years, serving on at least one committee each year and more than 50 overall, said Phil Bloom, a past Ham Brown award recipient. Wharton served on OWAA’s board in 1992. He climbed the ladder to president in 1998. He acted as local chair of two OWAA conferences in Utah — Salt Lake City in 1990 and St. George in 2001. He also helped with the 2011 conference at Snowbird in Utah. He guided OWAA’s headquarters move from Pennsylvania to Montana, and played a key role in forming OWAA’s Newspaper section in 1991.

Along the way, his work inspired others, including OWAA’s newest president, Brett Prettyman, who recalls reading Wharton as a youngster and then joining him at the Tribune as a sports writer. “Tom knew I wanted to be an outdoor writer,” Prettyman said. “He immediately took me under his wing and told me if I wanted to join the ranks I had to do two things — read ‘A Sand County Almanac’ and join OWAA.”

Excellence in Craft Award
W. Glenn TitusGlenn Titus, of Troy, Montana, received OWAA’s 2016 Excellence in Craft Award. The award honors an OWAA member “for outstanding effort in upholding the OWAA Creed and continued excellence in craft.”

Glenn Titus honed his skills on a typewriter and with still and motion-picture cameras before taking a job as a cinematographer and still photographer with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. If you’ve seen film of the rare South Dakota black-footed ferrets, you’ve seen Titus’ work, said Tim Christie, last year’s recipient. Titus moved on to lead the information-education division with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1964. A few years later he left the job to become the outdoor editor with Oklahoma City’s Daily Oklahoman, where he gave outdoorsmen a prominent voice in sports coverage and kept them abreast of the tangled politics surrounding wildlife management in the state. He went on to spend much of his career as a freelance writer and editor.

“For more than 40 years, Glenn spoke up for professional wildlife management and ethical use of the outdoors,” Christie said. He also dedicated his time to OWAA. Titus joined OWAA in 1962 and has served two terms on the Board of Directors. He won Outstanding Board Member in 1977. He won the J. Hammond Brown Memorial Award in 1985.

Jade of Chiefs Award
Larry Stone and Lisa BallardLarry Stone, of Elkader, Iowa, received the 2016 Jade of Chiefs Award. The Jade of Chiefs Award was first established in 1958 as OWAA’s top conservation award. Although only OWAA members are eligible, it is not actually presented by the organization, but by past award winners, who are known as the Circle of Chiefs. The Circle is recognized as the OWAA’s conservation conscience.

For more than 30 years as an outdoor reporter for the Des Moines Register, and later as a freelance writer, Larry Stone championed clean water, good fishing, beautiful landscapes and enhanced wildlife habitat, said Rich Patterson, a past award recipient. Stone is a dedicated member of OWAA, regularly attending conferences and even recruiting his daughter, Emily Stone, to join. He is completely dedicated to conservation and unafraid to cover contentious issues in his region.

“He has been utterly courageous in voicing the truth in a state and region where agribusiness dominates politics and finance,” Patterson said. “For decades his communications showcased his passion for the land and his great courage revealing to his audiences land abuse often caused by industrial agriculture. He is a quiet and modest man who has devoted his life to making ours a better world.”

Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award
Thayne SmithThayne Smith, of Claremore, Oklahoma, received the 2016 Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award. This 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.

Every time Thayne Smith greeted Glenn Sapir at conference, he’d look him the eye and ask about Sapir’s wife, kids, health and job.

“And I knew he really cared about what I had to say,” said Sapir, a past recipient of the Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award. “I am sure Thayne did this not only to me, but also to many of our members, making them feel cared about and welcome.”

Smith is a longtime member, both as an individual and supporter, and past president of OWAA. For several years Smith missed conference as he tended to his sick wife. “His absence was always missed by me,” Sapir said. “Conference was just a little bit cooler without the warmth of Thayne Smith.”

Outstanding Board Member Award
Tom KeerTom Keer, of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, received the 2016 Outstanding Board Member Award.

The Board of Directors chooses the outstanding board member recipient each year.

“While there are many board members who put a lot of time and thoughtfulness into their work for OWAA over the past year, Tom’s efforts were extraordinary,” said Lisa Ballard, former OWAA president.

Among Keer’s many efforts in his first year on the Board of Directors, he created new marketing and recruitment material to bolster membership. He also created a marketing plan for OWAA and analyzed similar organizations to see how it stands up.

“Tom is a true professional, an accomplished outdoorsman and a pleasure to have on OWAA’s board,” Ballard said.

An OWAA member since 2008, Keer is an award-winning freelance writer and president of a full-service marketing and public relations agency, The Keer Group.

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