Environment + Climate

Congressman, entertainment luminaries honored at UCLA environment gala

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Congressman Henry Waxman, movie producer Lawrence Bender and alt-rock band Linkin Park were honored at the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability's Evening of Environmental Excellence gala on March 21.

The sold-out event, held at the Beverly Hills home of Jeanne and Tony Pritzker, raised $650,000 to advance IoES research and education efforts.

"Supporting the work of the IoES is critical," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "We have to get focused on the environment before we're enormously challenged, more than we are now, and it's really that simple. This institute can make a difference."

The star-studded evening was hosted by actress Cheryl Hines, and drew more than 300 guests, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Courteney Cox and Angelica Huston. Comedian Bryan Callen delivered an environmental-themed stand-up routine.

IoES advisory board chair Tina Quinn, a co-founder of the nonprofit environmental organization Sustainable Conservation, praised the award recipients. "As our honorees have demonstrated, dedication and passion can make a difference in the lives of millions," she said. "They serve as examples for our students, the next generation of environmental professionals."

Quinn's predecessor as the IoES board chair was Tony Pritzker, who co-chairs the volunteer steering committee planning UCLA's Centennial Campaign. In his remarks, Pritzker highlighted UCLA's first Grand Challenges project, which will marshal campus-wide resources to turn Los Angeles into a global model for urban sustainability. Jeanne and Tony Pritzker made headlines in October with a $20 million gift to UCLA, of which $15 million was directed to IoES.

Waxman, who earned his bachelor's and law degrees from UCLA, was recognized for his leadership on environmental issues during his 40 years in Congress. In presenting his award, Kennedy praised the 20-term congressman for playing a key role in passing environmental protection legislation, including the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"He is a national treasure," Kennedy said. "If there were any justice, he'd be on Mount Rushmore."

UCLA seniors Jessica Galvan and Kyle Graycar, both environmental science majors, paid tribute to Linkin Park for raising more than $6 million for disaster relief and environmental programs through Music for Relief, an organization the band created after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Four of the band's members were on hand to receive the award, and two — Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda — treated guests to an acoustic performance of a pair of songs. Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson and bassist Dave Farrell graduated from UCLA in 1999.

The final award of the evening went to Lawrence Bender, who produced the 2006 Academy Award–winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

"For all of us who care about climate change, we need to stop talking and start acting," said Bender, a climate change activist and longtime member of the IoES board. "The scientific community could not be clearer. Climate change is not a next-century thing. It's not a theoretical thing. It's right here, right now."

Glen MacDonald, director of IoES and a professor of geography and of ecology and evolutionary biology, thanked all of the honorees for their contributions. "Tonight means so much to me because we are honoring true trailblazers who've made tremendous differences in their efforts to grow and stem the growing and rising threat of climate change," he said.

The event's live auction, which brought in $45,000, featured items including a guitar signed by John Fogerty, a luxury getaway to Thailand, installation of a home solar system, and a Linkin Park fan package that included backstage passes to a concert in Irvine, an autographed Fender guitar and other memorabilia.

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