2023 Green Tie Awards Recap

Since 2007, NCLCV has been hosting these events to honor leaders who are willing to fight for our environment, our communities, and our democracy. 

2023 Defender of the Environment - Gene Karpinski

Gene Karpinski, President of the national League of Conservation Voters (LCV), was honored with the 2023 Defender of the Environment award for his tireless work to bring about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act: the largest climate, environmental justice and clean energy legislation in our country’s history. Karpinski has led LCV since 2006. LCV’s work nationally and in partnership with NCLCV and other state leagues across the country helped build the groundswell of support that President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and others have lauded as critical to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Watch Gene Karpinski’s full speech here.

2023 Catalyst Award - Sam Hirsch and Jessie Amunson

We save the Catalyst Award for those who have taken exceptional action to create change and to bring attention to an important environmental issue. Over the past two years, we have been in the middle of one of the highest profile fights for our democracy in our state and our nation’s history.

Those cases – Harper v Hall in North Carolina and Moore v Harper at the U.S. Supreme Court – were argued on the foundational premise of our system of government. Those principles – the separation of powers, checks and balances, free and fair elections – are what we learn about in school. We could not be prouder of the stand we took for democracy and our legal team in those cases. You don’t always win, but you never win if you don’t take a stand. For that reason, we presented Sam Hirsch and Jessie Amunson of the firm Jenner and Block with our Catalyst Award.

Keep up to date on the cases by subscribing to our Conservation Insider Bulletin.

Watch Sam Hirsch’s full speech here.

Keynote Speaker – Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali

Dr. Ali, a renowned thought leader, international speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator, serves as the Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation. He is also the founder of Revitalization Strategies, a business focused on moving our most vulnerable communities from “surviving to thriving.”

Before joining the National Wildlife Federation, Mustafa was the senior vice president for the Hip Hop Caucus, a national non-profit and non-partisan organization that connects the hip-hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. In his role, he led the strategic direction, expansion, and operation of the Hip Hop Caucus’ portfolio on climate, environmental justice, and community revitalization.

Prior to joining the Hip Hop Caucus, Mustafa worked for 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He began working on social justice issues at the age of 16 and joined the EPA as a student, becoming a founding member of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). He ultimately served as senior advisor for environmental justice and community revitalization, working to elevate environmental justice issues and strengthening environmental justice policies, programs, and initiatives. 

Mustafa uses a holistic approach to revitalizing vulnerable communities, and has worked with more than 500 domestic and international communities to secure environmental, health, and economic justice. He has delivered speeches, training, and guest lectures at over 100 colleges and universities, and is a former instructor at West Virginia University and Stanford University. 

In his remarks, Dr. Ali reminded attendees of the self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, saying “all men and women are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights.” He continues, “I want you to remember those words our country was founded on, and how we should be courageous in our actions to make sure that becomes reality.”

Watch Dr. Ali’s full address here.

Special Guest – Marianne Engleman-Lado

Marianne Engleman-Lado currently serves as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s newly launched Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. She joined the Environmental Protection Agency in February, 2021 as Deputy General Counsel of Environmental Initiatives, where she focused on implementing the Administration’s commitment to equity, environmental justice, and civil rights enforcement, and carrying out the agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment.  

She previously directed an Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law School and served as Lecturer at both the Yale University School of Public Health and the Yale School of the Environment.  Before clinical teaching, she served as senior staff attorney at Earthjustice and as General Counsel at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a non-profit civil rights law firm.  

Engelman-Lado described the various policies and actions President Biden’s administration and the EPA are implementing to effect environmental justice across the nation in this historic moment. “Ultimately,” she said, “we will be judged–and we will judge the success of our efforts–by the change we see in communities.”

Watch Marianne Engelman-Lado’s full presentation here.


Young Leader – Willow Gatewood

Willow is a student, eco-artist, musician, and freelance writer. They just graduated from Catawba where they majored in Environment and Sustainability, with minors in Creative Writing and Geographic Information Systems and Technology. Willow has the additional honor of having been selected as a Rachel Carson Council Fellow for two consecutive years. In addition to their student role, Willow also held an important position on campus as the Assistant Manager for the Center for the Environment’s 189-acre Stanback Ecological Preserve.

Willow has started their position at the School of Visual Art’s Bioarts Residency Program in New York City.

Watch Willow’s full video here.

2023 Sponsors

Sustainable Green Tie

includes 10 tickets, special recognition

Carson & Bryan Brice • Carrie Clark  Jane & Kelly Clark • Pam Harting* 
Jeff & Lari Hatley  The Alcorn Family Foundation* Cathi Seligmann

Gold Tie

includes 8 tickets

Jim Overton & Mary Mountcastle • Marjorie & Walker Rayburn

White Tie

includes 6 tickets


Ann & John Campbell Andrew & Jean Canada The Hon. Rufus & Linda Edmisten 
The Hon. David Knight  Doug & Lissa Rader Anonymous

Black Tie

includes 4 tickets


The Hon. Lucy Allen • Marcia Angle & Mark Trustin • The Hon. Sarah & Dan Crawford • Jane Preyer
Bryna & Greg Rapp • Nina Szlosberg-Landis • Rosemary & Smedes York 

Silk Tie

includes 2 tickets


The Hon. Cynthia Ball Drs. Sylvia Burgess and Forest Toms • Dr. Lawrence Cahoon
Tom Fiore & Carol Tresolini • Deborah Dicks Maxwell Trip Van Noppen
Joel Porter & Dr. Elizabeth Coviello-Porter Mary Beth Powell & Bill Rote
The Hon. Joe Sam & Kate Queen • Elizabeth Redenbaugh • The Hon. Steve Schewel & Lao Rupert
Jim Smith • Steve Smith* Marion Sullivan John & Erin Wallace Nancy Young • Anonymous


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