Gary Potts hands presidential gavel to Bruce Thompson

By Nala Rogers

Gary Potts’ presidency came to a triumphant close this morning as he handed the gavel to the incoming TWS President, Bruce Thompson. In an emotional reflection on his time as president, Potts emphasized the collaborative nature of recent accomplishments, from expanding membership to building partnerships to promoting science-based policy.

The positive changes that Potts oversaw as president rested on a legacy of strong leadership going back to the Society’s founding. Potts described the inspiration he drew from the portraits of past presidents hanging on the wall in the TWS office.

“I reflect often on that wall in The Wildlife Society, and I’m proud of all of those individuals in the past,” he said. “It’s just humbling that my picture will be up there with those leaders.”

Potts’ words weren’t just for current and past TWS leaders. He expressed his delight that many students had chosen to attend the conference, and praised the contributions of members at every level. Together, he said, we are part of something bigger. When members look in the mirror tonight, he told members that they should see a reflection of their shared passion for TWS.

“That’s what you see in me. It’s been in my heart for 37 years — a deep passion for our professional society. Because we are —” Potts finished, prompting the audience to the chorus: “The Wildlife Society!”

Bruce Thompson, the 2016-2017 TWS presdent, accepted the gavel and took the stage to explain his vision for the next year. He spoke directly to the students and young professionals in the audience, encouraging them to seize opportunities and take advantage of older members’ support and mentorship. Opportunity is often missed, he said, because it comes dressed in overalls and it looks like work — a quote he borrowed from Thomas Edison. By accepting work and making their voices heard, TWS members have the power to shape the future.

Thompson also described the theme of his presidency: “Wildlife Conservation: Crossroads of Cultures.” The next conference will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., a crossroads both geographically and historically, he says. But beyond that, wildlife conservation must involve a coming together of people from different backgrounds and points of view.

“This is my way of stepping off into the next year, not just for the conference, but for all that we do in The Wildlife Society,” Thompson said. “Wildlife conservation is a crossroads of cultures.”

Nala Rogers is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at nrogers@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article.

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