The award honors women who demonstrate excellence and creativity in business and who contribute to the quality of life in their communities and help other women realize their leadership potential.
Considering the caliber of other awardees, Rust said, "It's quite an honor to be among them."
The most meaningful aspect of her tenure at POST is that which is most obvious, she said: "It's the one of saving incredibly important and valuable pieces of land and making them available" to the average person to enjoy.
"It's helping to create a landscape that sustains this region," she said.
In other parts of the country, land is not conserved with the same sense of public ownership as in the Bay Area, she said.
"The concept that everyone has access to that land is not as prevalent as we have here," she said.
Rust has led POST since 1987. Under her leadership, the Palo Alto nonprofit has protected 63,000 acres of open space land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. She lives in Menlo Park.
"Audrey Rust's achievements in more than two decades as president of Peninsula Open Space Trust are as magnificent as the natural spaces she has worked so hard to preserve," Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said in a letter supporting her nomination.
"These lands have become parts of the National Parks System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, California State Parks, county and city parks, regional open space preserves and private farmland."
Prior to her tenure at POST, Rust worked with the Sierra Club, Yale University and Stanford University. She has served on numerous local, state and national organizations, primarily in conservation and housing.
Over the years, a larger public consciousness about land conservation has emerged, she said. But there is a caveat.
The commitment to local concerns that major corporations and individuals in the valley have felt in the past has not transferred to the next generation.
Many business leaders now focus on the global environment and social issues.
"It's a concern for the future," she said.
As money leaves the Bay Area to support causes in other countries, Rust also hopes leaders with deep pockets won't take the local and regional environment for granted.
"Understanding the importance of our natural environment in its diversity ... and its importance in the protection of the air and water is an essential thing," she said.
Athena International established the Athena award in 1982, a professional businesswoman's organization dedicated to woman's leadership. Various host organizations, including chambers of commerce, administer the award annually.
Tickets for the luncheon are available by calling 650-324-3121.
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