Dr. Larry McKinney Honored with CCA Lifetime Achievement Award

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Former Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) Senior Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney was presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Corpus Christi Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas.

The award was made during the chapter’s Facebook Live event on Oct. 8, but HRI and CCA surprised McKinney with a special socially distanced award presentation at the Institute on Oct. 26.

Dr. David McKee, a retired veteran marine biology professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and environmental vice president of the CCA-Texas Corpus Christi Chapter, said the group has been giving their lifetime achievement award for 10 years to outstanding individuals with “illustrious careers in conservation” and McKinney more than qualified.

“Dr. McKinney’s lifelong goals mesh with our conservation goals – it was an easy choice,” added Jay Gardner, chair for CCA-Texas’ Habitat Today for Tomorrow Committee.

McKinney retired from his leadership role at HRI in August 2020 after 12 years of service. During his time as HRI Director, he grew the institute from a total of 37 staff and students with a $2.9 million annual budget in 2008 to 154 staff and students and an annual budget of nearly $27 million in 2020. He now serves as HRI Chair for Gulf Strategies, helping to sustain and grow the institute’s capacity to provide science driven solutions to Gulf of Mexico problems under the new leadership of Dr. David Yoskowitz.

McKinney previously served 23 years at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), where he became the agency’s youngest ever division director, and eventually the longest tenured director, before he retired in 2008 to move to HRI.

At TPWD, McKinney was a key architect in building the agency’s Resource Protection Division, Endangered Species, GIS and Legal Programs. He oversaw all outreach and education programs for many years, eventually being named Senior Director for Aquatic Resources and Director for Coastal Fisheries.

McKinney said the group’s honor meant a lot to him due to the assistance he’d had from CCA leaders in implementing important conservation initiatives, even when they weren’t flashy or popular, like those relating to freshwater inflows issues.

Dr. Kesley Gibson, an HRI postdoctoral research associate, nominated McKinney for the award. She said he deserved the honor for his “commitment to our oceans and marine life.”

“His life’s work and record speaks for itself,” Gibson said. “Dr. McKinney understood the need to assemble and support the best people for the job, whether that be scientists (including himself), students, or support staff, to make the job a success. He has never backed down from a challenge and has helped implement successful policies to help protect our resources for future generations.”

Gibson herself has worked with McKinney for several years as a student and now research staff member of the HRI team.

“On a more personal note, Dr. McKinney has always been supportive of students, helping us to advance and gain experience that many times is hard for graduate students to obtain,” Gibson said. “He has been interested in every student’s success that has crossed the threshold of HRI. Because of these reasons and more, I nominated him for this award and the committee agreed he deserved it.”