Humanities Washington Awardees
Originally a journalist, Jess Walter is the author of eight books, most recently Beautiful Ruins, and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2006. Walter’s stories have appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, McSweeney’s, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. As part of his commitment to nurturing creativity in Spokane, he co-founded Spark Central, a community arts and literacy center aimed at underserved youth. He’s been an active participant in GetLit! and was inducted into Spokane’s Citizen Hall of Fame in 2016 for Arts and Letters (an award given by the Spokane Public Library). Walter was emcee of Humanities Washington’s first Bedtime Stories fundraiser in Spokane, served on the Humanities Washington Award selection committee in 2009, and is a former member of Humanities Washington’s board of trustees. He has remained actively involved in Bedtime Stories, contributing an original short story in four of the past five events.
Philanthropist Martha Kongsgaard, co-founder of the Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation, is an active and driven volunteer for cultural and environmental causes throughout the Pacific Northwest. She lent her talents and influence to the inaugural Bedtime Stories event in Seattle 19 years ago, served as the event’s honorary chair in 2012, and has steadfastly supported the organization through changes in the cultural and economic landscape. Kongsgaard is immediate past chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council, past president of Philanthropy Northwest, past chair of the Washington Women’s Foundation, and has volunteered for many other community organizations. She has been honored with the Nancy Nordhoff Civic Leadership Award by City Club, Woman of the Year Award by Seattle University School of Law, and the Environmental Hero Award by the Washington Environmental Council, to name just a few.
Shaun O’L. Higgins
A long-time Spokane media executive whose work over the years has yielded two Emmys, Higgins is the founder and managing principal of The Oxalis Group LLC, a Spokane consultancy whose Movies for Business programs uses motion-picture clips to teach business-management and leadership lessons. He has shown great dedication to a variety of cultural causes, including Connoisseur Concerts, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and Humanities Washington, and is currently a member of the KSPS Community Advisory Board.
A leader in our state and in the communities they serve, Sno-Isle Libraries spans two counties—Snohomish and Island—and serves 21 communities. Yet despite this large territory, they maintain a hyper-local focus on the audiences they serve, providing creative community events and reading programs. Their mission is to be a community doorway to reading, resources, and lifelong learning; and a center for people, ideas, and culture. Their audiences are smart and sophisticated, and Sno-Isle Libraries succeeds in providing them with exciting, challenging programs.
Tod Marshall was the first in his family to attend college, and his educational experience inspired him to bring humanities education to underserved populations through programs including Humanities Washington’s Prime Time Family Reading program and the Clemente Course in the Humanities. Marshall earned an MFA degree from Eastern Washington University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. His first collection of poetry, Dare Say, was the 2002 winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series. His second collection, The Tangled Line, was published by Canarium Press in 2009, and was a finalist for the Washington Book Award. Marshall has also published a collection of his interviews with contemporary poets, Range of the Possible (EWU Press, 2002), which was named to the New York City Public Library Poetry Book List for 2003, and an accompanying anthology of the interviewed poets’ work, Range of Voices (2005). In 2005, he was awarded a Washington Artists Trust Fellowship. His third collection of poetry, Bugle, was published in December of 2014 from Canarium. He lives in Spokane, Washington, and teaches at Gonzaga University.
From the start of her career, Ellen Ferguson thought creatively about bringing cultural experiences to the people of Washington. As a graduate student in museology at the Burke Museum, Ferguson wanted to provide cultural enrichment to patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, so she created the Burke Box, which contained museum objects capable of being washed, sterilized, and handled, along with an educational curriculum. Ferguson created the box 35 years ago and its use continues to this day. Ferguson’s involvement in the cultural community only grew as her career progressed. In addition to rising up to become Community Relations Director at the Burke, she has served in leadership positions at numerous cultural institutions, and is the president of the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation. Ferguson and her late father Hugh Ferguson were honored on National Philanthropy Day in 2001 as the state’s outstanding philanthropic family.
Lorraine McConaghy is a public historian who has devoted her professional life to researching and teaching Pacific Northwest history. She is also a past Speakers Bureau presenter for Humanities Washington. At Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, she curated a series of successful projects, including the museum’s core exhibits, Metropolis 150 and Essential Seattle, as well as Blue vs. Gray: Civil War in the Pacific Northwest. McConaghy taught in the Museum Studies program at the University of Washington, and her work has been honored by the Washington Museum Association, the Oral History Association, the National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History. In 2010, she received the Robert Gray Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Washington State Historical Society. McConaghy currently lives in Seattle.
Liz Burroughs has made a significant contribution to the humanities in Washington State through many years of dedicated service and volunteerism in the Spokane region. She is a former trustee and board chair of Humanities Washington, and served as an honorary co-chair of Bedtime Stories in Spokane in 2012. She is a former board member and board chair of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) in Spokane, including playing an active, key role in the organization’s capital campaign to support the expansion and opening of a new facility in 2001. She is a past recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award for Arts & Culture from Family Service Spokane, and the City of Spokane Arts Award. She is a lifetime donor of the Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation, and is a former board chair of the Inland Northwest Community Foundation. In 2013 she established the Dr. Robert and Mary Elizabeth Burroughs Family Foundation, a designated endowed fund to support seven charities. Burroughs currently lives in Spokane.
Humanities Washington honored author and scholar Charles Johnson with the 2013 Humanities Washington Award at the Bedtime Stories Seattle literary gala Oct. 4, 2013. Johnson received the award for his longtime support for the humanities in Washington, including his involvement in Humanities Washington’s Bedtime Stories literary gala. At Bedtime Stories, writers from around the state develop an original story based on a theme, then present them live at a dinner event. The event has sparked several original works, including Jamie Ford’s latest, Songs of Willow Frost. Johnson helped found Bedtime Stories fifteen years ago, in 1999, and since then has penned a story for the gala annually. Johnson received the National Book Award in 1990 for Middle Passage, making him the first African-American man to be given the award since Ralph Ellison in 1953. He is the author of numerous works, including four novels, three collections of short stories and over 20 screenplays. Johnson is a professor emeritus of fiction at the University of Washington, where he began teaching in 1976, and an active force in the Seattle arts and humanities community.
The 2012 Humanities Washington Award honoree was Congressman Norm Dicks (WA-6) for his 36 years of congressional support for the humanities. He received the honor at a reception at Triple Creek Farm in Olympia Tuesday Sept. 25, 2012. Dicks received the 2012 Humanities Washington Award for his work as a tireless champion for the humanities, culture and the arts – most recently as the top Democrat on the House Committee on Appropriations. Dicks also served 36 years as a member of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, through which he delivered crucial support to the communities of Washington state. Through his service, he helped achieve parity between funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. In March 2012, Dicks announced that he would be retiring from Congress at the conclusion of the current session, ending his tenure as the longest-serving member of the U.S. House in our state’s history.
Humanities Washington has awarded folksinger and storyteller Hank Cramer of the Methow Valley the 2011 Humanities Washington Award celebrating achievement in the public humanities. Cramer received the honor at a luncheon Sun Mountain Lodge July 22. In his work, Cramer thinks a lot about the universal humanities theme of how individuals shape — and are shaped by — their journeys. “It all comes back to human stories,” he says. “Our history is important, where we came from is important. [It’s about] the recurring story of how different people face the same challenges over and over again, and how they find the answers to those challenges and how they pass them on.” For Cramer, the humanities blur the boundaries between his love of history, music and creative writing. “Humanities Washington has been a good role for me because my presentations meld history, music, and literature together. It’s a creative experience that I share with audiences around the state and they seem to like it. I’m very honored to get this award,” he says.
Humanities Washington has awarded Richard “Dick” Watts, Chair of the Roslyn Cemetery Commission, the 2010 Humanities Washington Award celebrating achievement in the public humanities. Watts received the award for his work to restore, protect, and promote the importance of Roslyn’s historic cemeteries. “The Roslyn cemeteries contain 26 separate cemeteries, most representing distinct nationalities and ethnic groups,” Watts said. ”At one time, Roslyn is said to have been the most international community in Washington. It is the cemeteries—and the hundreds of people returning on Memorial Day and All Souls Day to recognize their ancestry, the Lithuanians, Croatians, Italians and others celebrating their special ethnic heritage days—that bring this legacy alive.“ Roslyn’s cemeteries are a visible reminder of the diverse mix of settlers who made the town a thriving community after coal was discovered in 1886. As the mines tapped out by the mid-1900s, the cemeteries became a forgotten treasure. Watts, who has spent countless hours taking care of the cemeteries’ grounds (and rallied a core of volunteers to do the same), has inspired a renewed community commitment to the cemeteries by developing a five-year plan to protect the historic sites.
Donivan Johnson received his Master of Arts in Composition from California State University, Northridge. He serves as the only K-12 music instructor for the Selkirk School District in Ione, WA. For his dedication to students in Metaline Falls, Johnson is listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers. In 2001, Selkirk was designated as “One of the 100 Best Communities for Music Education in America.” The Selkirk music program has been featured on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” for National Public Radio. As a composer, his cantata Arise, My Love received its premiere in Basel, Switzerland on June 5, 1999; Lindisfarne Ground (piano and un-pitched bells) was selected for performance at the Society of Composers Region VI Conference, University of Texas, San Antonio in February, 2005. His children’s piano piece entitled Kinderstück Nach Webern: Laughing Man received its premiere during March 2005 in San Francisco.
Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture
Spokane’s Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (aka the ‘MAC’) is a multidisciplinary museum, serving over 100,000 visitors and 12,000 school children in the Inland Northwest each year. Since opening its new building in 2001, the MAC has hosted dozens of exhibitions and programs featuring Regional History, American Indian Culture, and the Inland Northwest’s historical and contemporary Art. Founded in 1916 as the Eastern Washington State Historical Society and chartered by the State of Washington in 1926, the MAC was one of the first museums in the state to be accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1972. Accreditation confirms that the MAC upholds the highest standards of collections management, conservation and exhibitions. This, together with its Smithsonian Affiliation, means that, in addition to providing expertly researched and interpreted exhibits from its own collections, the MAC has been able to bring outstanding traveling exhibits and programs from around the country to the region.Education at the MAC enhances the museum’s changing exhibits and explores its three disciplines: Regional History, Art, and American Indian Culture. Programs for students and teachers are highly interactive and directly support Washington State’s public school curriculum. Family programs emphasize fun inter-generational learning experiences. Adult programs highlight recognized scholars, experts, authors, and artists.
Judy Trefethen was awarded the 2008 Humanities Washington Award for her commitment to education and for the tremendous work she has done to improve education and literacy in Wenatchee and the entire state. Judy has shown remarkable leadership in the statewide Motheread/Fatheread® family literacy program and Humanities Washington appreciates her ongoing efforts.
Humanities Washington chose to honor Lela for her commitment as Academic Director and the driving force behind establishing and expanding the first rural Clemente Course program. Her work has been nationally recognized, and the Jefferson County site is being used as a case study for international program growth. The Clemente Course is the result of an innovative collaboration between Bard College and community partner organizations. It has three goals: to better equip course participants for civic engagement; to promote their personal growth and enrichment; and to build a bridge for them to higher education.
Vi Hilbert, an elder of the Upper Skagit tribe, Vi (Taq s blu) grew up on the Skagit River listening to her parents speak Lushootseed, the language of Chief Seattle. In 1967, linguist Thom Hess contacted Vi when he began translating a tape of Vi’s mother Louise telling a traditional story. Intrigued, Vi began reading and writing Lushootseed at the University of Washington under Hess. The following year she began her seventeen year tenure as a Lushootseed teacher at the University of Washington and Evergreen State College. In 1972 she co-founded the Lushootseed language and culture program at the University of Washington. She has worked tirelessly as a preservationist of Coast Salish language and culture, transcribing and translating several collections of oral literature recordings, assembling and editing story collections, and publishing bilingual books. She established Lushootseed Press to publish much of her translation work as bilingual books including Aunt Susie Sampson Peter and “Gram” Ruth Sehome Shelton. Vi has made her work available to the community through her publications and extensive archives.
Writer and naturalist Ruth Kirk was honored for her work over several decades as an author, photographer, naturalist and teacher. An official ceremony with a keynote talk by prize-winning author William Dietrich was held October 14th. 2005 at 6:30 PM at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.
Tom Ikeda is the founding executive director of Densho (meaning “to pass on to future generations”), a Seattle-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving rapidly vanishing testimonies of the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. In eight years of unpaid full-time service, Ikeda has led Densho’s drive to collect 400 hours of video oral histories, 2,000 historical images, and a curriculum on civil rights co-developed with the SPICE program of Stanford University. All the Densho materials are offered free of charge on the website www.densho.org. The life stories, historical images, and contextual readings not only honor one ethnic group that suffered injustice in a past period of national anxiety; they encourage people of all backgrounds to think critically about the precarious balance of personal freedom and public security that we face today. Under Ikeda’s direction, Densho has earned a national reputation for excellence and innovation in preserving and disseminating primary sources of American history. Densho has donated excerpts of the compelling interviews to exhibitions at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Recently Densho has contracted with the National Park Service to produce video oral histories documenting the incarceration camp at Minidoka, Idaho.
Nancy Pearl is the former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library. Respected nationally for her book knowledge, she received the Public Library Association’s 2001 Allie Beth Martin Award, which “recognizes a public librarian demonstrating a range and depth of knowledge about books and other library materials and the distinguished ability to share that knowledge.” Pearl is the author of Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, 1978 – 1998, Now Read This II: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, 1990-2001, Book Lust and More Book Lust. She reviews books for local and national publications, and reviews books regularly for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and NPR’s affiliate station KUOW in Seattle. In 1998, Library Journal named her Fiction Reviewer of the Year. In 2004 she became the 50th winner of the Women’s National Book Association Award for her extraordinary contribution to the world of books. Nancy Pearl is one of the extraordinary individuals who work in Washington State to ensure that the humanities are a part of our lives. The public humanities programs that have flourished under her direction at the Washington Center for the Book give us the opportunity to examine how we think, what we value, to exchange ideas, and to consider the complexity of the human experience.
Karen and Ralph Munro
Karen Munro can count among her many accomplishments the distinction of being one of first paid employees of Humanities Washington (then Washington Commission for the Humanities). She also served on Humanities Washington’s board of trustees, first for an elected term and then as a gubernatorial appointee. In addition, she served on the board of the Federation for State Humanities Councils. Karen has been an articulate advocate for humanities, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of Humanities Washington and the other state humanities councils. She continues to be a strong supporter of Humanities Washington and the humanities. Since his election in 1980 to the first of five terms as Secretary of State of Washington State, Republican Ralph Munro has become one of Washington’s best-known and most beloved politicians. As Secretary of State, he was a good friend of the humanities and was known for his bipartisanship and civic activism. Since his retirement in 2001, Ralph has continued to be active in improving the communities of Washington state through his work with such organizations as the Ralph Munro Seminars for Teachers, VoteHere, and the Ralph Munro Endowment for Civic Education at Western Washington University. In 2002 he began a term as President of the Seattle Downtown Rotary.
Delma Tayer began her career in 1963 at Yakima Valley Community College (YVCC) teaching composition, literature, painting, art history, and humanities. In addition to her teaching duties, Delma was Director of the Larson Gallery (located on the YVCC campus) from 1975-1983. She is a published author and has had many solo and group exhibitions in painting and ceramics. Delma is a past president of the Board of Trustees of Humanities Washington. Her influence can be felt well beyond Yakima Valley as demonstrated by the numerous awards and honors bestowed upon her. She was a Ford Foundation scholar and received the Allied Arts Council Award for Contribution to Excellence in Arts, Woman of Achievement Award, the John N. Terrey Award, and was the Larson Gallery’s 2000 Woman of the Year.
In 1996, Linda Breneman, a technical and freelance writer, had the idea to develop a literary arts center, a place for writers and readers to meet and build audiences for new work. She recognized that Seattle was lacking this type of support for its writing community. She enlisted the help of two friends, writers Andrea Lewis and Frances McCue, to begin the research for developing a center. In 1997, Linda provided the seed money that established Richard Hugo House, named for a local poet who wrote beautifully about overlooked places. In choosing Linda as the Washington Humanities Award recipient, the panel cited her vision: using business principles to establish a thriving non-profit organization; her approach: including a broad-based community process to the development of Hugo House and its programming; and her philanthropic stewardship: providing not only financial resources but her expertise, collaborative work model, and board leadership in helping create Richard Hugo House.
As part of her lifetime commitment to the humanities in Washington, Barbara Krohn has held leadership positions with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Fort Vancouver Historical Society of Clark County, Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, Association of King County Historical Organizations, Burke Museum, and Humanities Washington, among others. Her career in history and publishing earned her leadership posts with the Educational Press Association of America and Pi Lambda Theta and many honors, including the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award and the Distinguished Newspaper Advisers Award. As creator and publisher of Landmarks magazine, Barbara provided the voice for historic preservation in Washington and promoted numerous organizations dedicated to the humanities.
Sherry Prowda founded Seattle Arts & Lectures in the Fall 1988 with a six-part series of lectures by prominent writers at the First United Methodist Church in Seattle. The program has grown to seven lectures annually and has moved to a larger venue, Benaroya Hall in Seattle. The series has included authors such as John Updike, the late Wallace Stegner, Isabel Allende, the late Saul Bellow, Louise Erdrich, the late Michael Dorris, and Elaine May.
John Terrey served as Executive Director of the State Board for Community College Education for more than 20 years, as a college administrator at Central Washington University, and as a teacher at Bellevue High School. Since 1972 he has been an adjunct faculty member in higher education at University of Washington and served on the Board of Trustees of Evergreen State College. He served as the second Board President of Humanities Washington (then Washington Commission for the Humanities) and was one of the founders of Friends of the Humanities, our membership organization.
Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center
Humanities Washington recognized the dedication of Holocaust survivors who, through the Holocaust Center’s speakers bureau, donate hours of their time to share their stories with school and community groups around the state. By sharing their own painful experiences, these volunteers demonstrate the dangers of intolerance and prejudice and give personal impact to broader historical events. In addition to the Speakers Bureau, the Center provides educational materials on the Holocaust to public schools across Washington state, sponsors the annual Jacob Friedman Holocaust Creative Writing Contest for students in the sixth through the twelfth grades, maintains an archive of videotaped oral histories of Holocaust survivors, and provides a traveling exhibit which tells the story of two Holocaust survivors who live in Washington state.
Ron Chew’s work has spanned more than 25 years in community journalism and the development of educational programs. In all his efforts, the humanities in general, and history in particular, have been made accessible and interesting to a broad audience without sacrificing a high quality of research and scholarship. He has tackled controversial topics such as the effects of Japanese American internment and the Vietnam War with sensitivity and balance. In 1991, Ron became Director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum. Under his leadership, the museum has been recognized both locally and nationally for its successful involvement of community scholars and volunteers in all phases of exhibit development. The results have been award-winning exhibits and publications covering a broad range of community histories, including One Song, Many Voices about the Asian Pacific American experience; Executive Order 9066 about the effects of Japanese American internment and The First 100 Years, about Seattle’s Chinese Americans.