FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 2009
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Eight Receive Awards before Charlie Bryan's Last Lecture at the VHS
Students, Authors, and Staff among Those Recognized Before President Emeritus Spoke
Richmond, VA—In the words of Virginia Historical Society (VHS) Board of Trustees Chairman J. Stewart Bryan, III, November 19, 2008, was a bittersweet day—President and CEO Dr. Charles F. Bryan, Jr., was retiring after twenty years of leading the society. But before Dr. Bryan's final lecture as president, eight award winners were recognized at the VHS Annual Meeting.
Chairman Bryan made the opening and closing remarks to the more than 400 honorees, trustees, and VHS members in attendance.
"The Board of Trustees of the Virginia Historical Society, in recognition of his long and exemplary service to the society and its members, hereby expresses its deep appreciation, admiration, and respect for Charles F. Bryan, Jr., and elects him forthwith president emeritus of the Virginia Historical Society," Chairman Bryan said.
VHS awards were presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to scholarship, education, and the mission of the society. The 2007 Bobby Chandler Student Award, funded by the Kip Kephart Foundation, was presented to Kathleen Kraines, a student at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County. This award, presented to Kraines by William B. Thalhimer, a VHS trustee, is given to a secondary school history student who demonstrates knowledge, creativity, and research skill in using primary source materials. Kraines conducted a family history project using census records, historic maps, newspaper articles, and government documents to look at an American family in its community and to examine how both changed over time, from the 1880s through the 1930s.
The twelfth consecutive Brenton S. Halsey Teaching Award for excellence in teaching in 2007 went to James E. Triesler. The award, named in honor of a former VHS chairman, is given to a Virginia teacher who demonstrates scholarship, enthusiasm, and creativity in the classroom. Since 1995, Triesler has taught history at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County. He has been twice recognized as Clover Hill's teacher of the year, and in 2007 Triesler was named both Chesterfield County Teacher of the Year and Virginia Region 1 Teacher of the Year.
VHS Trustee Helen Turner Murphy presented the Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography to Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of the award-winning book Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through His Private Letter. Since 1998, and thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Kathleen L. Slatten, the VHS has been able to offer a cash reward to recognize distinguished contributions to Virginia biography. Pryor, who used items in the VHS collection to complete her book, served as a high-ranking diplomat in the U.S. Department of State. According to a reviewer, "Her exhaustive research and beautiful prose recover the many layers of Lee’s being."
Established in 1985 in honor of long—time editor Will Rachal, the William M. E. Rachal Award recognizes the best article to appear in the VHS quarterly journal, the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. The journal's editorial advisory board committee selected author Phyllis Leffler for her article "Mr. Jefferson's University: Women in the Village!" John R. Pagan, a member of the society’s President’s Council, presented the University of Virginia professor with her award.
Nancy Hays Gottwald, a VHS trustee, presented the Patricia Rodman and Martin Kirwan King Volunteer of the Year Award to James E. Corbett, Jr. Corbett, a retired teacher and volunteer at the society for over thirteen years, works with staff in the development and public affairs department. He doesn't mind doing mundane tasks like stuffing envelopes, alphabetizing files, and labeling invitations. Corbett remarked "It is my pleasure and privilege to spend several hours each week in the presence of the most positive people I have ever worked with. The staff in the development office especially, and everyone in the entire institution, reflect the warm charm of Dr. Bryan. Thank you for providing this place for me to contribute."
The President's Awards for Excellence, this year presented by incoming VHS President and CEO Dr. Paul A. Levengood, are awarded to two employees who exemplify outstanding service. This recognition, in its tenth year, recognizes VHS staff who demonstrate a spirit of teamwork and cooperation. The 2007 winners, who were nominated by their colleagues, were Donald "Sam" Prickett, information technology manager, and Ann de Witt, graphics and web manager.
The Lora Robins Award, named for the widow of the late E. Claiborne Robins, Sr., was presented by VHS Director of Museums James C. Kelly posthumously to James H. Willcox, Jr. Willcox, who died in June, was a tireless advocate for collecting silver. He was given the 2007 award because he best emulated Lora Robins's splendid leadership, generosity, and foresight in collecting the evidence of Virginia’s history for the benefit of future generations. Willcox served as guest curator for the 2003 VHS exhibition Silver in Virginia. This show presented hundreds of pieces of Virginia-made or retailed silver, many of them belonging to Willcox. In his honor, the society named the exhibition space the James H. Willcox, Jr. Gallery. Friends Richard Broyhill, Elizabeth Kelly, and Richard Marks accepted the award on Willcox's behalf.
After all eight award recipients were honored at the society’s annual meeting, outgoing VHS President and CEO Charles Bryan spoke at the Alexander Wilbourne Weddell Trustees Lecture about his life—long love of history. After his talk, "History Begins at Home: A Personal Journey," Bryan thanked the audience and said that the VHS was in capable hands with Levengood.
"The best aspect of my career—and I mean this sincerely—and the one I will miss the most are the remarkable people with whom I have had the privilege of working," Bryan said at the end of his lecture. "I am genuinely excited about turning the VHS over to Paul Levengood; his energy, leadership skills, and solid credentials as a historian will serve the society well for many years to come."
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm
and Sunday 1 pm–5p m (Museum Galleries and Shop only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.