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Indiana Historical Society Announces Annual Award Honorees

November 7, 2023

The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) is proud to announce its Annual Award Winners for 2023. Each year, these 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.

“These individuals and organizations have led and inspired so many Hoosiers with their passion for history, sharing their knowledge and work with others throughout their communities and across the state,” said Jody Blankenship, president and CEO of the Indiana Historical Society. “We are excited to be able to present these awards to the recipients in person, congratulating them on their efforts and showing them how valuable they are.”

Below are the 2023 award winners:

Jacob P. Dunn Jr. Award

The Jacob P. Dunn Jr. Award is named after the Indiana historian and author and is given annually to the author of the best article in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, published by the Indiana Historical Society Press.

Peter J. De Kever, Mishawaka

Peter J. De Kever is historian laureate for the City of Mishawaka and curator of the Mishawka Historical Museum. Peter’s article “Photo by W. A. Stickler: The Life and Legacy of Mishawaka’s Walter Stickler,” appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Traces. His article examines the remarkable life of Walter A. Stickler — Minnesota resort pioneer, a nationally-known nature photographer, a Florida theme park promoter, and politician. Stickler also became one of the most accomplished Princess City residents of the 20th century.

Caleb Mills Indiana History Teacher of the Year

The Caleb Mills Indiana History Teacher of the Year Award, named in honor of Caleb Mills, the father of Indiana’s common schools, is made annually to a teacher (teaching grades 4-12) currently teaching American or Indiana history and recognized by his or her colleagues as making a significant contribution to the understanding of these two fields by his or her students.

Jeff Swisher, Hammond

Jeff Swisher teaches American and Indiana History at Morton High School with an incredible passion that is contagious to all those around him. He is committed to teaching his students about connecting the past to the present on both a national and local level, immersing his students in engaging teaching games, sparking curiosity about how the community has been shaped over time and creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment for all students to express thoughts and ideas.

Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award

The Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award is named for Dorothy Riker, who was a 50-year employee and editor for the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Historical Bureau from 1929 to 1979. This award is made annually to a historian who has made distinguished contributions to the field of historical scholarship, including presentation, use of materials and preservation, or the affairs and activities of the IHS.

Thomas Hamm, Richmond

Dr. Thomas Hamm is Emeritus Professor of History and Quaker Scholar in Residence at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., as well as the historian for Wayne County. He has published many genealogical works, and there would not be the abundance of resources related to Hoosier genealogical research without his efforts. In the 1970s, he worked with the youth of Henry County, Ind., to document pioneer cemeteries in the county — these records are priceless.

Tom and Marty Davis, Indianapolis

Tom and Marty Davis have both dedicated their work and volunteer hours to the history and interpretation of Crown Hill Cemetery. The relationship Crown Hill Cemetery has with the Crown Hill Foundation has put the site in the forefront of rural, or garden, cemeteries. It is partly because of the work and dedication Tom and Marty Davis have given Crown Hill that has made this possible.

Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award

The Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions over an extended period of time to a) the field of history and/or b) the affairs of IHS. This award is named after philanthropist Eli Lilly, a lifelong leader of the Indiana Historical Society.

Barbara Wood, Indianapolis

Barbara Wood became the Indiana State Archives’ volunteer coordinator in 2000, a position she held for 23 years until her retirement in 2023. As a State Archives volunteer, Barbara indexed several archival collections, and that work is now available as finding aids and indexes on the Research Indiana Indexes website. Some of her projects include the Walker and Weeks World War memorial collection, Vanderburgh County Insanity Inquests, several counties of naturalization records, and State Board of Pharmacy records. Many vital collections were made accessible during her tenure.

Michael Mavis, Muncie

Delaware County native Michael Mavis spent a lifetime researching, collecting and sharing the history of Delaware County. He was an active member of the Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS) for more than 30 years, serving as a board member, volunteer, collections committee member and exhibit curator. He was also a long-time board member of Delaware County’s Historic Preservation and Rehabilitation Commission, providing guidance to those seeking to rehabilitate and preserve local homes and buildings. This award will be given posthumously.

Hubert Hawkins History Award

The Hubert Hawkins History Award is named for Hubert Howard Hawkins, past executive secretary of IHS and director of the Indiana Historical Bureau. Mr. Hawkins was instrumental in increasing IHS membership during his work around the state and with the Indiana Junior Historical Society. This award is given to a local historian for his or her distinguished service and career in local history.

Ed Fujawa, Indianapolis

Since Ed Fujawa established the “Class 900: Indianapolis” blog in 2018, he has published 134 in-depth articles about the history of Indianapolis and its people. In addition to “Class 900,” Ed has also written a book, “Vanished Indianapolis.” When Ed is not researching and writing about local history, he serves as Deputy General Counsel for the Indiana Department of Insurance, president of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and as a commissioner on the Meridian Street Historic Preservation Commission.

Frank Vargo, Whiting

Frank Vargo is a retired teacher from St. John the Baptist School in Whiting. In that role, he taught history to hundreds of students in the Whiting-Robertsdale community. He also played a major role in establishing order to the collections held by the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society. He led the effort to conduct oral history interviews for a major project to collect the memories of those who lived through the massive explosion at the Standard Oil Refinery in Whiting in 1955, and he researches and responds to most of the requests the Historical Society receives from those seeking information.

Indiana History Outstanding Organization Event or Project Award

The Indiana History Outstanding Organization Event or Project Award recognizes an organization for an exceptional educational event or history project implemented during the past year, either one-time or ongoing, which relates to that organization’s mission.

SullivanMunce Cultural Center, “Zionsville Interim Report, Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory”

The mission of the SullivanMunce Cultural Center is to facilitate the operations of the Patrick Henry Sullivan Museum, Zionsville Genealogy Library and the Munce Art Center. This project specifically benefits the Patrick Henry Sullivan Museum, which collects and interprets the history of the Zionsville Community. The project focused on updating the Zionsville Interim Report, Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory originally published in 1983. The report was completed in 2022 — now available in print and digital format online for home researchers and Town of Zionsville departments. It helps enhance and promote Zionsville’s valuable historic heritage.

Outstanding Collaborative Project Award

The Outstanding Collaborative Project Award recognizes an exceptional project by a historical or heritage organization with one or more partners implemented during the past year, particularly for projects that share county or regional history.

Delaware County Historical Society, Muncie, “Notable Women of Delaware County and Muncie Project”

DCHS’s Notable Women of Delaware County and Muncie Project has prompted collaboration both between institutions and within courses and programs at Ball State University. Within the History Department, the project has encouraged greater involvement of students in original research building local historical knowledge — researching women who have made significant contributions to Muncie, the county, state and nation. It also has played an important role in training Indiana’s future historians and teachers. The project was featured at the Philadelphia Area Consortium for Special Collections in 2021, three Indiana Historical Bureau conferences, the Indiana Association of Historians Conference, Ball State University Alumni magazine, and Women’s and Unity Week at Ball State University.

Outstanding Historical Organization Award

The Outstanding Historical Organization Award is presented to a local or county historical society, organization or site in Indiana which has demonstrated remarkable service to and programs for its community, and has demonstrated excellent application of professional standards and best practices.

Evansville Wartime Museum, Evansville

The Evansville Wartime Museum (EWM) was founded in 2017 with a mission to acquire, preserve and interpret historical artifacts; and educate all ages of how industry, home front workers and military supported the nation in times of conflict. EWM works with local school corporations to present tours to more than 1,000 elementary students annually, supporting their engagement with history beyond textbooks. The museum was also the catalyst for the U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service to designate Evansville as an “American WWII Heritage City,” the only designee in Indiana.

Irvington Historical Society, Indianapolis

A group of Irvingtonians in 1964 founded the Irvington Historical Society to collect and preserve the history of greater Irvington. In 2002, The Society opened the Bona Thompson Memorial Center (Bona), the former Butler library. There it maintains thousands of artifacts and an art collection focused on the Irvington Group and offers exhibits with related programming. It was successfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places of five historic districts in Irvington, including more than 4,600 historic buildings — the largest single concentration of historic places in Marion County.

Willard C. Heiss Family History-Genealogy Award

The Willard C. Heiss Family History-Genealogy Award is awarded to a family historian for his or her distinguished service and career in Indiana family history, helping genealogists discover connections between themselves and their ancestors through source material, family records and well-documented stories. Presentation may include articles, books, use of materials, preservation, workshops and lectures, or it may include work in a library or archive, helping the public with questions about genealogy and family history over a long career. Willard C. Heiss was a preeminent authority on Indiana Quaker history and genealogy and is credited with bringing order to the archives of Indianapolis.

Sheila Kell, Vernon

In 2005, Kell became the county coordinator for Jennings County and Jefferson County with INGenWeb, an online genealogy database project; she still serves in both positions. She became the local history and genealogy librarian at the Jennings County Public Library in late 2010. Shortly after, Kell became a member of the board of directors of the Jennings County Historical Society and at historic Eleutherian College in Lancaster, Jefferson County. She set up a research center focusing on family history in her home in Vernon, across the street from the Jennings County Historical Society.  She remained with the Jennings County Public Library for 10 years and retired in 2021. She still acts as a consultant with the library and with the Historical Society and is the historian for Jennings County.

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