Blue Whale Gala


We are proud to honor Betty White and Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D. with the prestigious Ocean Conservation Award on Saturday, June 9, 2018

Betty White in red dress

Betty White

Even at the age of 96, nothing can slow down comedy legend Betty White, one of the funniest and busiest actresses in Hollywood. With a career that has spanned more than 70 years, the seven-time Emmy Award winner has created unforgettable roles in television and film, authored eight books, and won numerous awards, but it is for her devotion to the health and welfare of animals that we recognize Betty White with the Ocean Conservation Award. White is a trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and serves as president emeritus of Morris Animal Foundation, where she has been a trustee since 1971. She has also long been involved with Actors and Animals for Others, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific, TreePeople, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. In 2006 White was honored by the City of Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Zoo as “Ambassador to the Animals” for her lifelong work for animal welfare. In 2013 she was awarded the Conservation Advocate Award from the Zoological Society of San Diego. In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious John Smithson Medal of Honor from the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute Gala for her conservation efforts. She was proclaimed an honorary forest ranger by the U.S. Forest Service in 2010 and made an honorary zookeeper by the keepers of the Los Angeles Zoo, two occupations she considered as a child before becoming an actress

Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D portrait

Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D.

Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D. is university professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. In 2002 President George W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Science at the White House. Dr. Ayala received the 2010 Templeton Prize for exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension from HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at a private ceremony in Buckingham Palace, London. From 1994 to 2001 Dr. Ayala was a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He has been president and chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993-1996), and president of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society of the U.S (2004-2005). Dr. Ayala is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and several foreign academies, and has received numerous prizes and honorary degrees. Dr. Ayala has made significant and wide-ranging experimental and theoretical contributions to evolution theory. His scientific research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics, including the origin of species, the genetic diversity of populations, the origin of malaria, the population structure of parasitic protozoa, and the molecular clock of evolution. He also writes about the interface between religion and science and on philosophical issues concerning epistemology, ethics, education, and the philosophy of biology. He was a chief witness in the creationist trial in Arkansas in 1981 that prevented religion from being taught as science in the classroom. Dr. Ayala has been called the “Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology” by The New York Times.