Long Beach’s Aquarium Honors Retired Naval Admiral and Oceanographer with Annual Conservation Award at Blue Whale Gala • Long Beach Post

Blue Whale Gala Honorees

From left to right: Jerry R. Schubel and his wife Margaret Schubel, honoree Margaret S. Leinen, Ph.D., Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, U.S. Navy (Retired), wife Linda Gaffney, Gala Committee Chair Michelle Molina and Aquarium Board Chairman John Molina. Photos courtesy of Caught in the Moment Photography. 

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Last week’s black tie Blue Whale Gala, hosted by the Aquarium of the Pacific, recognized two standout ocean conservationists and researchers while raising $377,000 for the nonprofit aquarium.

As announced by the aquarium this week, the 2015 Ocean Conservation Award honored former Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, current chair of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Ocean Exploration Advisory Board and Dr. Margaret Leinen, an award-winning oceanographer, vice chancellor for Marine Sciences and director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and dean of the School of Marine Sciences at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego).

“The honorees we selected had to have made contributions to ocean science, conservation or both,” said Aquarium of the Pacific President and CEO Jerry R. Schubel. “This year we wanted to see whether we could get two people who dedicated their lives to the ocean organizations they lead.”

Schubel said the aquarium was continually able to attract large names in oceanography and conservation because of the aquarium’s focus on traditional aquarium amenities and technology to tell a larger story about humans and nature.

“Geography isn’t an issue—it’s about the impact they made,” said Schubel of each year’s honorees.

The Blue Whale Gala hosted a total of 420 guests and featured a speech by Mayor Robert Garcia, which praised the aquarium as an attraction of “global importance” to Long Beach.

Blue Whale Gala Great Hall

Last year, the aquarium honored those who focused on creating tools aimed at furthering understanding of the ocean and conservation. Honorees included the founder of the GIS and mapping company esri, Jim Fowler.

“This year we wanted to focus on people who lead institutions and created cultures where individuals could thrive,” said Schubel.

Gaffney’s award comes after a three decade long career in the navy, including executive and command positions within naval research and oceanography. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a master’s degree in Oceanic Engineering from the Catholic University of America and a Master’s in Business Administration from Jacksonville University.

He’s also the former president of Monmouth University and was appointed by the President to the United States Commission on Ocean Policy in 2001, followed by becoming chair of the Ocean Research Advisory Council in 2009.

Leinen’s work, in addition to her academic positions at the Scripps Institution and UC San Diego, includes her current position as president of the American Geophysical Union Board of Directors and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.

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