Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

50th Anniversary Gala Triumph

By Sharal Camisa, Executive Director, The Leakey Foundation

Leakey Foundation supporters and grantees gathered in San Francisco on May 3 to celebrate 50 years of exploration, discovery and sharing our human story.

The celebration featured a cocktail reception with a portrait studio, and the dinner party began with a performance of South African music by Chinyakare Ensemble. Dr. Kelly Stewart served as our master of ceremonies and introduced speeches Leakey Foundation President Camilla Smith, Executive Director Sharal Camisa, and Scientific Executive Committee Member Nina Jablonski. Our keynote speech was delivered by the Director of the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, Kirk Johnson.

The enthusiastic crowd pledged a record amount of money during our lively auction, and the evening concluded with an after party which featured unique virtual reality experiences and scrumptious late-night snacks.

The gala raised $394,392 for research and outreach funding, and over half of our guests were new supporters.

Welcoming those new supporters was one of the many personal highlights of this very special event. Here are a few more:

Witnessing the reunions of colleagues and friends.

From top left: 1) Nina Jablonski and Thure Cerling 2) Denise Su and Erin Vogel 3) Gordon Getty and Kristen Hawkes 4) 2018 Leakey Foundation Speaker Series lecturers all together: Erin Vogel, John Mitani, María Martinón-Torres and Bernard Wood 5) Joan Donner and Nina Carroll

Asking Rick Potts to donate soil from the Olorgesailie site where he and his team made an extraordinary discovery.

From top: 1) The gift was presented to Gordon Getty as a token of thanks, and the crowd laughed along with Camilla Smith when she presented him with “dirt.” 2) Casts of the 13-million-year-old fossil Alesi were presented to past Presidents of the Board of Trustees, Kay Woods and Don Dana. (A cast was also mailed to Bill Wirthlin who was unable to join us in San Francisco.) The discovery of Alesi was funded by The Leakey Foundation and has made worldwide news.

Singing along to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” with Donald Johanson during the auction.

Following the sing-along, Don Johanson offered to give the auctioneer the skull-print tie he was wearing to sell to the highest bidder. Then, Spencer Wells offered to sell the talisman he carried with him around the world while filming “Journey of Man.” Then, an anonymous donor contributed a pair of courtside tickets to a Warriors’ basketball championship game. The surprise auction raised $9,700! (Donald Johanson and Ellen Toscano)

Experiencing unique and unforgettable moments.

1) Serving Iron Horse Wine at the Chairman’s Reception; the room was decorated with prehistoric horse images donated by Jean Clottes. A big thanks to Austin and Sara Hills for providing red and white wines from Grgich Hills Winery at the gala.
2) Greeting three generations of the Richards family.
(Dana and Annie Lajoie and Bill Richards)
3) Watching guests enjoy the virtual reality headsets during the After Party.
(Carol Rabenhorst and Bernard Wood)
4) Celebrating our beloved Founder Joan Travis and seeing guests make pilgrimages to her table all night to offer their appreciation for her hard work.
(Camilla Smith, Brian Howell and Joan Travis)

Working with the most amazing team!

From left: Arielle Johnson, Sharal Camisa, H. Gregory, Kristin Berger, Rachel Roberts, Paddy Moore, Meredith Johnson, Jenine Marquez

Stay tuned for part two – with more photos and highlights!

Comments 3

3 responses to “50th Anniversary Gala Triumph”

  1. Jim Carty says:

    Looks like the Foundation had a very excellent 50TH
    which figures coming from such an excellent staff !

  2. Ria Boner says:

    Such a fun night! Enormous thanks to our wonderful hosts at The Leakey Foundation.

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