Austin, Texas – Early this year, the Audubon chapter of Austin, Travis Audubon Society, announced the creation of the Victor Emanuel Conservation Award, an honor that will be given annually to a "conservation hero" of Texas. In a remarkable display of generosity and respect, Travis Audubon not only named the award for Victor, but designated him as the first recipient.

On October 16, 2010 the first Victor Emanuel Conservation Award luncheon was held at a downtown Austin hotel. Among the nearly 200 people in attendance were many of Victor's longtime friends and colleagues, in addition to VENT office staff and a number of other luminaries in the field of conservation.

Victor Emanuel & Travis Audubon Board of Directors

Victor Emanuel & Travis Audubon Board of Directors— Photo: Ben Reynolds

Travis Audubon was roundly lauded for doing a superb job organizing such a large first-time event. Reflecting on the day, Victor stated, "Even though I was thrilled and flattered to be honored as a 'conservation hero,' I also felt great pride in being associated with a growing organization that effuses so much positive energy." Indeed, Travis Audubon is a growing organization whose membership has tripled in the last five years. Under steady leadership from its Executive Director, Nancy Manning, and President, Valarie Bristol, Travis Audubon is charting new territory in conservation, education, and overall reach. In addition to bringing deserved recognition to future award recipients, the tradition of a very public award luncheon will further establish Travis Audubon as an important organization in the Austin community and Central Texas region.

Underscoring the last point, the event also served as a fund-raiser for the purchase of land to increase the size of Chaetura Canyon, a ten-acre sanctuary in a rapidly growing part of Travis County. Through the success of a live auction and individual donations, approximatley $16,000 was raised for the acquisition of this important property.

In considering the significance of being honored in such a fashion, Victor was clearly moved by the outpouring of support he received. In his acceptance speech, Victor mentioned the people who played influential roles in his development as a birder and conservationist, before graciously calling out a host of individuals in attendance whom he admired and who themselves were successful conservationists. Interviewed afterward, Victor offered thoughts that concisely summed up a life spent in nature and business, and in wanting to make a difference. "Throughout my career," he said, "I have worked hard to make VENT the best birding and nature tour company it could possibly be. For most of my life I have also been an ardent supporter of saving birds and their habitats. That feeling is as strong in me today as it has ever been, especially at a time when our birds need all the help they can get. To be recognized by my peers for my advocacy and support of important conservation matters is an honor I will always remember."

Making the event more memorable still is that it coincided with Victor's 70th birthday. An interesting and delightful afternoon concluded with a banquet room full of people serenading Victor to the timeless tradition of "Happy Birthday."

You can read more about the event, view images, and watch a tribute video to Victor at the Victor Emanuel page of the Travis Audubon website.