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IHS Announces Founders Day Honorees

October 30, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) is proud to announce the 2019 Founders Day award honorees. Each year, the Founders Day awards recognize outstanding individuals and organizations whose efforts have enriched the lives of others by conveying awareness and appreciation of Indiana’s history on local, regional and statewide levels. IHS will celebrate the honorees at the annual Founders Day dinner, presented by Hirtle, Callaghan & Co., Monday, Nov. 4, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

Caleb Mills Indiana History Teacher of the Year

April Tuason | Indianapolis

The passion and drive for learning that April Tuason shares with students make them want to give it their all. She is currently in her first year as assistant principal at Eastwood Middle School, where she previously taught eighth grade Individuals and Societies. Colleagues say Tuason’s efforts encouraging students to explore Indiana and American history have had a positive effect on the entire student body. Over the past five years, she has grown Eastwood’s National History Day in Indiana program participation to encompass most of the school’s 840 students. Tuason actively encourages students to find out how history impacts their lives and shapes their communities. She is also recognized for seeking out ways to grow herself as an educator and school leader for the benefit of the community.

Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award

Amber D. Gowen | Evansville

Students and colleagues describe Amber Gowen as a powerhouse of a historian whose passion for local history is apparent in everything she does. As an archivist with the Vanderburgh County Clerk, she preserves collections housed at the county clerk’s office. Gowen also researches and lectures on local topics. One such project led to the discovery of more than 140 local World War I nurses. Gowen is credited with bringing to light their names and stories, which she now shares with a wide range of audiences. For the past three years, she’s helped students research projects for the National History Day in Indiana program. Gowen shares the county’s archives, teaches primary sources, visits classrooms and maintains a research guide of 100 local history topics.

Hubert Hawkins History Award

Alan Hague | Indianapolis

A life-long Broad Ripple resident, Alan Hague strives to chronicle the rich history of one of Indianapolis’ most dynamic Cultural Districts. As founder and editor of The Broad Ripple Gazette, Hague is described as a living historian. His bi-weekly newspaper has served the northside area of Indianapolis since 2004, with stories on education, entertainment, transportation and the ever-changing commercial scene. Under Hague’s direction, The Broad Ripple Gazette also focuses on the history of the area, a place his family has called home for many generations. Author Dan Wakefield points to pieces on The Canal and The Vogue Theatre as being especially meaningful to those, like himself, whose childhood memories are forever linked to Broad Ripple.

Helen Parks | Vevay

Helen Parks is known as a respected historian, teacher and role model for her Switzerland County community. Now retired from teaching, Parks is remembered by students and colleagues as making her classroom come alive with storytelling. During her 33-year career, she used acting, interviews and music to enhance students’ awareness of local history that left a lasting impact. She continues to be involved with many organizations, such as the Switzerland County Historical Society and Thiebaud Farmstead. Over the years, Parks also lent her expertise to projects such as Always a River (1991) and productions by The River Queens, among others. Parks received the Sagamore of the Wabash in 2000 and served as a torchbearer during Indiana’s Bicentennial Relay in 2016.

Thomas Howard Ridley | Indianapolis

Thomas Ridley is often described as the “walking encyclopedia,” due to his knowledge of the Madam Walker Legacy Center and the rich history of its location on Indiana Avenue. At 5 years old, he was in the crowd as The Walker opened its doors in 1927. Now 96, Ridley has spent nearly two decades as its lead docent. Those who know Ridley say he also regales guests with memories of “The Avenue,” as Indiana Avenue was known during its heyday. Ridley is a graduate of Crispus Attacks High School and a United States Army WWII veteran. He has taken part in countless magazine, radio and television interviews, and in 2012, he authored From the Avenue—A Memoir: Life Experiences and Indiana Avenue History.

Willard C. Heiss Family History and Genealogy Award

Mary Blair Immel | Lafayette

Mary Blair Immel of Lafayette is an author and genealogist whose meticulous research has brought to light stories never-before-shared with the public. While she lived in Covington, a local librarian showed Immel a G.A.R. enrollment book. This introduction led her to write biographical sketches and locate the graves of 180 Civil War veterans who lived in one small Indiana community. Immel also helped identify Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate, buried in Lafayette’s Greenbush Cemetery. She first learned of the unidentified soldiers while working as assistant to the director of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. A longtime author for THG: Connections, Immel’s own genealogical and historical research led to two YA books published by IHS Press, Giant Steps: Suffragettes and Soldiers (2017) and Captured! A Boy Trapped in the Civil War (2006), a Best Books of Indiana finalist.

Linda Kelly Talley | Greenwood

Linda Talley is described as a hidden treasure in the Johnson County genealogical community. She has been a librarian for the Genealogy and Local History Library at the Johnson County Museum of History for 25 years. In this role, Talley manages the library collection, organizes a small army of volunteers and fulfills most research requests, but those who know her say her efforts go far beyond day-to-day responsibilities. Talley also runs the Genealogy Day program, which she developed, and has been known to organize “Late Night Genealogy” events so people who work during the day can still do research. Talley works with county departments to save records that otherwise might be thrown out and presents to many Johnson County groups. From 1997 to 2012, she also wrote a genealogy column for the Daily Journal.

Indiana History Outstanding Organization Event or Project Award

Delaware County Historical Society | Muncie

Delaware County Historical Society’s project “Remember When” invites residents past and present to share local histories and stories of their community. Each month, DCHS members travel to a different city or township where they examine artifacts, scan documents and photos, and hear personal memories of the area. To date, more than 400 people have taken part in the project and attended meetings from Daleville to Albany and Gaston to Selma. “The project has enriched the ability of the Historical Society to provide better documentation and research materials to the community,” said James B. Waechter, recently retired DCHS executive director. In addition, the program has increased DCHS memberships and visitors and helped solidify the organization’s status as the “county” historical society.

Outstanding Collaborative Project Award

Monroe County History Center and Alzheimer Resource Services for IU Health | Bloomington

A local project promoting compassion and awareness for dementia, the Living with History program initiative is a collaboration between the Monroe County History Center and Alzheimer’s Resource Service of IU Health. The program is a series of museum-based dementia support programs at the History Center in Bloomington. Visitors can take part in workshops and Memory Cafés designed to increase communication between people living with dementia and their care partners. To help spark conversations, guests can check out Memory Boxes, small collections of objects centered around a topic or theme. In addition, Memory Walks give guests the chance to share memories and stories of life in Monroe County. A certified Dementia Friendly Business, the History Center offers the Living with History program at no cost to visitors. The program is supported by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.

Outstanding Historical Organization Award

Daviess County Historical Society & Museum | Washington

Since it reopened in 2016, the Daviess County Historical Society & Museum has gained attention and praise from across the state. The museum, located at 212 E. Main St. in downtown Washington, is growing into a must-see destination for visitors and as an archive for historical and cultural information. Noteworthy additions include a military uniform room, the newly-opened research room and better online access to information and historical items. The change wouldn’t have been possible without a dedicated team of volunteers. They spent countless hours taking inventory of the museum’s vast collection, modernizing displays and rehabilitating the building.

Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award

Dianne Johnson Cartmel | Brownstown

Dianne Johnson Cartmel of Brownstown has spent decades serving as a leader of Indiana’s heritage organizations at both the state and local levels. She has served as an advisor to the Jackson County History Center and was a leading figure in the creation of JCHC’s Joe E. Robertson Genealogical Library. She also played a role in establishing and organizing the Pioneer Society to recognize families with Jackson County roots dating back to the state’s founding in 1816. Cartmel served as IHS board chair and was involved in building the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center as well as restructuring and modernization of board leadership.

Alan January | Indianapolis

While Dr. Alan January has held several positions during his decades-long career with the State of Indiana, he is most often described as a man who saves history. After joining the Indiana State Archives and Records Administration in 1990, he turned his attention to irreplaceable state and local records. His enthusiasm for the preservation and accessibility of Indiana’s records also influenced the Friends of the State Archives volunteer program. Under his guidance, the program grew to a yearly average of more than two dozen volunteers who are responsible for processing thousands of cubic feet of records and creating data used to populate the Indiana Digital Archives, an award-winning digital index containing more than a million names.

Curt B. Witcher | Fort Wayne

Curt B. Witcher’s deep knowledge and tireless work ethic have established him as a leader and visionary in the genealogical community. He is best known as the manager of the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, where he oversees the largest genealogy and family history collection in a public library. Witcher is a staple worldwide at genealogy conferences, due in part to his widely-praised storytelling abilities. Among his many accomplishments, Witcher led several digitization projects from infancy to completion, including the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System and rallied people and organizations to raise funds for the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions digitization project – the largest effort ever initiated for a single set of records. A leader in the field, Witcher is a past president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society and was founding president of the Indiana Genealogical Society.

About the Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s Storyteller, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; produces and hosts art exhibitions, museum theater and outside performance groups; and provides youth, adult and family programs. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

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