Distinguished Service Award

David Vaughan '75

David Vaughan '75David Vaughan '75 received the Distinguished Service Award. Vaughn, of Summerland Keys, Florida, earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology and chemistry from Graceland in 1975. He credits professor Nick Hartwick for directing him toward his life’s work. During an independent winter term in Grand Cayman, his passion for the world’s oceans and the thousands of species that live beneath the surface awoke. David went on to earn a Master of Science in biology and microbiology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and a PhD in botany and plant physiology from Rutgers University.

Vaughan, a renowned aquaculture researcher, has designed, built and operated many marine aquaculture projects, programs and businesses. He initiated the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution’s Aquaculture Division, and he built the Aquaculture Development Park and the Aquaculture Center for Training, Education and Demonstration. Vaughan developed the Center for Marine Ornamental Research, which is now incorporated as Oceans, Reefs and Aquariums Inc.

In 2005, Vaughan became a senior scientist at the Mote's Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration Center in the Florida Keys and program manager for the Coral Reef Restoration Program. It was while working in his lab that Vaughan discovered a process to speed up the rate of growth for coral. Using a process called micro fragmentation, he and his crew are able to produce hundreds of corals in a day. Vaughan postponed his retirement to work on restoring corals at Florida’s Reef Tract, the third-largest coral reef in the world. He is now the president and founder of Plant A Million Corals LLC, which was created for the purpose of training marine biologists all over the world in coral restoration and replenishment.

For the past 32 years, Vaughan has made a name for himself worldwide with numerous published papers and notoriety on his coral growth research. In 2008, he won the Eugenie Clark Scientific Explorer Award from Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and in 2018, he received The Parker/Gentry Award for Excellence in Conservation/Environmental Biology from The Field Museum. Vaughan has also single-handedly restored and grown over 50,000 corals, and over 100,000 more working with others. He credits his time at Graceland for giving him the drive and passion for this lifelong love and mission.