News

May 24, 2017

Jack Holcomb receives Warden Award: Hawk Mountain's Highest Honor

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary presented long-time volunteer and former board member Jack Holcomb with the prestigious Hawk Mountain Warden Award on May 12 at the Sanctuary's Benefit for the Birds gala held at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. This award is recognized as the organization's highest honor.

In 1934, Maurice and Irma Broun were the first to protect the newly-formed Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, turning away the hawk shooters and encouraging people to watch the hawks and enjoy the viewshed instead. Eighty years later, Warden Award recipients are people like Maurice who have made exceptional contributions to Hawk Mountain in the form of leadership or special merit. The physical Warden Award is a replica of the badge worn by Maurice in the early days of Hawk Mountain.

Individuals (members, donors, volunteers, or other stakeholders) are eligible if their support has had a pivotal impact on helping Hawk Mountain Sanctuary achieve its goals of leadership in raptor conservation. The current President selects these awardees after consultation with the chairman of the Sanctuary's board, staff, and others as appropriate.

Jack Holcomb received this award due to his admirable 40 plus years of service for the Sanctuary, which included volunteering behind the bookstore counter or at the trail entrance as the "Keeper of the Gate." His friendly demeanor, welcoming smile, knowledge of Hawk Mountain and birds were an invaluable asset to Hawk Mountain. His duties often extended to counting migrants at North Lookout, as well as data entry and general office duties on the Mountain. He also served as a member of the Hawk Mountain Board of Directors in the 1990s.

Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Director of Long-term Monitoring at the Sanctuary, worked closely with Jack throughout the years; "Jack defined the meaning of Keeper of the Gate at Hawk Mountain, welcoming all visitors and members with a big smile, sharing his natural history knowledge, and making everyone feel special. Many people visited on Mondays over the years just to see him."

In addition to his time on the Mountain, Jack has been a long-time member of the Baird Ornithological Club of Reading, PA, serving as president a few times. He participated in several Christmas Bird Counts for decades, including the Hamburg Christmas Bird Count Area, with which he helped since the 1970s. Jack was also awarded the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology Earl Poole Award in 2008 for his many contributions to the birding community in Pennsylvania, especially for educating the public about birds.

Jack "retired" as a Hawk Mountain volunteer in 2016 after decades of dedication to the Sanctuary. He still birds regularly, and works part-time as a radio personality on WEEU, where he hosts the highly rated program "Jack's Backyard," which he has done since 1956.

"I grew up listening to Jack on the radio. Being able to call him a friend is an honor," said Mountain Bookstore Manager, Mary-Therese Grob, who had supervised and worked alongside him. "Jack has a unique gift for connecting with people, of making people he's never met feel like life-long friends. Staff and visitors looked forward to—and now miss—weekly interactions with one of the greatest ambassadors to our natural world."

Interim President and Director of Conservation Science, Dr. Keith Bildstein says of Jack, "He simply made the Sanctuary a better place. His contributions continue to amaze."

Mary-Therese agreed with this lasting influence: " Jack's dedication, service, and love of the Sanctuary and its visitors has been woven into the Mountain's amazing legacy. He will forever be a part of Hawk Mountain."

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