Close Close

Future of the Ocean Symposium and Champion of the Ocean Awards

symposiumEach year, the Urban Coast Institute hosts a Future of the Ocean Symposium and Champion of the Ocean Awards Luncheon at Monmouth University. The Champion of the Ocean Award was established in 2005 to honor individuals who have undertaken actions and demonstrated sustained leadership that ensures coasts and oceans are clean, safe, sustainably managed, and preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Previous Champion of the Ocean honorees include ocean explorer Robert Ballard, marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle, ocean scientist and advocate Jean-Michael Cousteau, and former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. See below for full list of honorees.

For more information about the symposium and awards, contact UCI Director Tony MacDonald at (732) 263-5392 or

Past Event Pages

Ocean Champion Honorees

National Ocean Champions

2023: Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Dr. Richard Spinrad, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2019: Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2018: Dr. Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Thomas Kean and James Florio, honorary co-chairs of the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance and former New Jersey governors
2017: Barry Gold, Environmental Program Director, The Walton Family Foundation; Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, Director, Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy at the University of Delaware
2016: Dr. Robert Ballard, President, Ocean Exploration Trust; Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator
2015: Dr. Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-Residence, the National Geographic Society; Terry Garcia, National Geographic Society Chief Science and Exploration Officer
2014: Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Wendy Schmidt, President of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute
2013: Admiral Thad Allen, USCG (Ret.), Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
2012: Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University and Vice President for Programs of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
2011: Jean-Michel Cousteau, President, Ocean Futures Society
2010: Dr. Carl Safina, President and Co-Founder, Blue Ocean Institute
2009: Lillian C. Borrone, member of U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Joint Ocean Commission Initiative and former Port Director, Port Authority of NY/NJ
2008: Congressman James Saxton, 3rd District, N.J.; Dr. Shirley A. Pomponi, Executive Director, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University
2007: Dr. Jerry Schubel, President and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific; Ted Ames, Director of the Lobster Hatchery in Stonington, Maine
2006: Dr. Robert Gagosian, past President and Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
2005: Leon Panetta, Chair, Pew Ocean Commission; Admiral James Watkins, Chair, U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy

Regional Ocean Champions

2019: Bradley Campbell, President, Conservation Law Foundation
2016: Dr. Donald Boesch, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
2015: Richard B. Robins, Chair, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Ernie Panacek, President, Garden State Seafood Association; Jay Odell, Mid-Atlantic Marine Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

State, Coastal and Ocean Leadership

2024: Genevieve Clifton, Office of Maritime Resources Manager, New Jersey Department of Transportation; Scott Douglas, Dredging Program Manager, New Jersey Department of Transportation; Dave Golden, Assistant Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; Virginia Rettig, Refuge Manager, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
2023: Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, the American Littoral Society; New Jersey State Sen. Bob Smith
2019: Dr. Scott Glenn, Distinguished Professor in the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences
2018: David Kinsey, Mark Mauriello, Norbert Psuty and John Weingart, for their contributions to the creation and success of New Jersey’s Coastal Management Program
2016: David Rosenblatt, Assistant Commissioner of Engineering and Construction, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; Elizabeth Semple, Assistant Director, Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
2012: Lawrence R. Dickerson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc.; Cristopher Koch, President and CEO, World Shipping Council; Rear Admiral Richard M. Larrabee, USCG (Ret.), Port Commerce Director, Port Authority of NY/NJ
2011: Kenneth E. Pringle, Esq., founding member Pringle Quinn Anzano, and former Mayor of Belmar
2010: Joseph M. Kyrillos, Jr., New Jersey State Senator, District 13
2008: Dr. J. Fred Grassle, founding Director, Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences
2007: Dr. Robert B. Abel, former Director of the National Sea Grant, President of the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium and Senior Scientist at the Stevens Institute of Technology (posthumously)
2006: Dr. William Rosenblatt, former Mayor of Loch Arbor and Surfrider Foundation Chair

Marine Educator of the Year

2010: John Wnek, Vice Principal, MATES Academy
2009: Claire Antonucci, Vice President for Education and Acting President, New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium/New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium; Barbara Boyd, Teacher of Oceanography, Marine Academy of Science & Technology (MAST)

Volunteer of the Year

2010: Steve Zeck, Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, Rutgers Marine Field Station
2009: Rosemary Brewer, committed to enhancing life in coastal communities
2008: Margo Pellegrino, Citizen Ocean Activist
2007: Thomas Gagliano, former State Senator, Chair, New Jersey Shore Partnership
2006: Tom Fote, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, supporter of Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program