Imagine Excellence: The GWS Awards Program

Imagine Excellence, the GWS Awards Program, recognizes outstanding accomplishments in fields associated with research in, administration and management of, and communication about parks, other kinds of protected areas, cultural sites, and related supporting activities.

The five main awards are given every two years at the GWS conferences. In addition, a Special Achievement Award may be bestowed from time to time by the GWS Board of Directors.

The next round of awards will be presented during the 2017 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites, April 2–7 in Norfolk, Virginia.  Nominations will be accepted beginning July 1, 2016, through October 28, 2016.  The link to the nomination form is further down this page.

The GWS awards consist of a plaque, payment of the winner’s expenses to travel to the GWS conference, and a year’s complimentary membership in the Society.  Peer recognition is high and competition for the awards can be keen.

The awards are:

  • The George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence, given in recognition of lifetime contributions on behalf of the Society or in furtherance of its purposes. This is the Society's highest award, and it is reserved for exceptional achievements in any of the areas with which the GWS is concerned. It is a top-of-career award.
  • The GWS Cultural Resource Achievement Award, given in recognition of excellence in research, management, or education related to the cultural resources of parks, cultural and historic sites, reserves, and other protected areas. This award is generally aimed at mid-career to senior-level accomplishments.
  • The GWS Natural Resource Achievement Award, given in recognition of excellence in research, management, or education related to the natural resources of parks, reserves, and other protected areas. This award is generally aimed at mid-career to senior-level accomplishments.
  • The GWS Social Science Achievement Award, given in recognition of excellence in social science research, management, or education related to parks, reserves, and other protected areas. This award is generally aimed at mid-career to senior-level accomplishments.
  • The GWS Communication Award, given in recognition of excellence in communication, interpretation, or related areas pertaining to the purposes of the Society. This award is given specifically to recognize outstanding efforts in communicating highly technical or controversial park-related subjects to the public in a clear and understandable manner.


Please note: you must be a George Wright Society member in order to nominate someone for an award, although the person you nominate does not have to be a member.


To nominate someone for a GWS award, fill out this online form. 


Latourelle heads list of 2015 GWS Awardees

Alan Latourelle, the chief executive officer of Parks Canada, became the first Canadian to be awarded the Society’s top honor when he received the George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence at ceremonies on the concluding evening of the 2015 GWS Conference in Oakland. Latourelle was appointed CEO in 2002 and since then Parks Canada has become an international leader in innova­tive conservation practices, methods for heritage presentation, and providing ex­ceptional experiences. Under Latourelle’s leadership, Parks Canada has increased the area of protection for sensitive ecozones by more than 30%. This includes the cre­ation of six new national parks, a major expansion of two existing national parks, and two new national marine conservation areas. Additionally, in the past twelve years 105 places of national cultural significance to Canadians have been declared national historic sites.

At the same event, four other winners in the Society’s “Imagine Excellence” Awards Program received their honors:

  • Kurt Repanshek was honored with the 2015 GWS Communication award for creating and editing the National Parks Traveler website, which has become a leading source of information on the US national parks, including original reporting from Repanshek and others.
  • Mark Michel, founder of The Archeological Conservancy, was recognized with the 2015 GWS Cultural Resource Achievement Award for his career-long achievements in protecting endangered archaeological sites ,and for his role in the passage of the 1979 Archaeo­logical Resources Protection Act.
  • Karen Treviño was given the 2015 GWS Natural Resource Achievement Award for her leadership of the US National Park Service’s Natural Sound and Night Sky Division, which has become a major component of the agency’s natural resource research and management efforts.
  • James Gramann won the 2015 GWS Social Science Achievement Award for his numerous contributions to the USNPS social science program, including commissioning an external review that resulted in the program’s becoming a permanent part of the agency.

 In addition, the first student chapter of the GWS, at Clemson University, was recognized with a plaque. And a special certificate was presented to Bruce Kilgore in appreciation of his mentoring role in the lives of many park scientists in the USNPS western region. Complete citations for all the awards can be found at


Full List of Past Awardees

GWS Cultural Resources Achievement Award (established 1997; prior to 2009, called the GWS Cultural Resources Management Award)
1997: Rowland Bowers
1999: Jerry L. Rogers
2001: Ann Hitchcock
2003: Denzil Verardo
2005: Nora Mitchell
2007: Nelly Margarita Robles Garcia
2009: Edwin Colón
2011: Ernie Gladstone
2013: Hugh C. Miller
2015: Mark Michel

GWS Natural Resources Achievement Award (established 1988; prior to 2009, called the GWS Natural Resources Management Award)
1988: Roland Wauer
1990: Robert Moon
1992: No award given
1995: Robert J. Krumenaker
1997: Russell E. Galipeau, Jr.
1999: R. Gerald Wright
2001: Vincent Santucci
2003: Jerry Mitchell
2005: Linda Drees
2007: Charles van Riper III
2009: Kate Roney Faulkner
2011: David Cole
2013: Robert Winfree
2015: Karen Treviño

GWS Social Science Achievement Award (established 2009)
2009: Robert Manning
2011: No award given
2013: Peter Newman
2015: James Gramann

GWS Communication Award (established 1999)
1999: Tim Davis
2001: Stephanie Dubois
2003: Jeffrey Cross
2005: David Andrews (on behalf of the staff of Common Ground)
2007: Harry Butowsky
2009: Yvonne Menard (in conjunction with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy)
2011: Paul Schullery
2013: Charles Jacobi
2015: Kurt Repanshek

George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence (established 1992)
1992: Jerry F. Franklin
1995: Robert M. Utley, Jean Matthews, William B. Robertson, Jr. (co-winners)
1997: Bruce M. Kilgore
1999: Bryan Harry
2001: Robert M. Linn, Theodore W. Sudia (co-winners)
2002: Boyd Evison
2003: Daniel Lenihan
2005: John Hope Franklin, Jan van Wagtendonk (co-winners)
2007: George B. Hartzog, Jr.
2009: Michael Soukup
2011: Richard West Sellars
2013: Denis P. Galvin
2015: Alan Latourelle

Special Achievement Award (occasional; given at discretion of GWS Board)
2001: George J. Minnucci, Jr.
2003: Wesley R. Henry, Jr.
2007: Gary E. Machlis
2013: Vernon C. "Tom" Gilbert