The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences recognized James Earl Kennamer, a 1964 game management graduate and former faculty member, as the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient during a presentation at its advisory council meeting March 1 in Auburn.
Kennamer, who later earned a master’s and a doctoral degree from Mississippi State University, is part of a multigenerational family of Auburn wildlife alumni and faculty. He is the son of Earl Kennamer, Auburn’s first wildlife Extension specialist. His own son, Lee, is also a wildlife graduate of Auburn.
It has been said that Kennemar is the embodiment of the Auburn Creed. “He grew up there, went to Auburn schools, attended Auburn, served on its city council, and was lucky enough to return to teach after he earned his doctorate,” said Lee Kennamer. “He’s received many awards for his professional contributions over the years, but Auburn is where he always called home.”
Kennamer served as a member of Auburn’s faculty before accepting a position with the National Wildlife Turkey Federation in 1980. While in this role, Kennemar was instrumental in building the conservation department and formed a technical committee which became the driving force in the nationwide trap and transfer of wild turkeys, a method that helped to restore wild turkey populations across the continent.
Kennamer later served as the federation’s chief conservation officer for conservation and outreach programs and eventually headed the department for 32 years where he was responsible for coordinating its programs with state and federal agencies, private organizations and companies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Kennamer now serves as the development advisor to the federation’s CEO, where he continues to dedicate his time toward conservation through his fundraising efforts.
He has written many feature articles in Turkey Country magazine and had one of the longest running magazine columns in the outdoor industry. He has also authored over 50 scientific papers, including chapters in four books.
Kennamer has been involved with the federation’s television shows “Turkey Call” and “Get in the Game.” He is a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club and at one time co-chaired the North American’s Hunting Heritage Steering Committee representing the United States.
The School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences recognizes outstanding alumni annually. Award recipients must be graduates of the school, have careers that demonstrate a history of outstanding contributions to forestry or wildlife sciences within the state, nationally or internationally and must exhibit exemplary character and integrity.
Among the many honors and awards bestowed in recognition of his lifetime contributions to wildlife conservation, Kennamer has been recognized by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, The Wildlife Management Institute and various sections and divisions of The Wildlife Society.
In 2010, Kennamer was appointed to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Advisory Panel by Tom Vilsack, the 30th secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 2011, he was recognized by the USDA Forest Service for his exemplary leadership at the National Wild Turkey Federation with the Forest Restoration Award.
At the National Wildlife Turkey Federation 2016 National Convention in Nashville, the federation’s board of directors awarded Kennamer its first Lifetime Achievement Award and will now bestow its annual national scholarship in his honor.
During the March award presentation in Auburn, Kennamar said, “I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of working with turkeys, and I have been able to do that with the rank and file in this country, with astronauts, with politicians, and see and do things that I never would have imagined, if I hadn’t made that decision,” said Kennamar. “Leaving [Auburn] was a hard thing to do, but coming back is special…I have come full circle.”