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May 8, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Thursday, May 8, 2008

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Three local residents and a local firm received Thomas Jefferson Awards on Wednesday from the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation.

George and Jean Adams of Martinsville received the Noel T. Boaz Director's Award. It recognizes people who have made significant contributions, either through volunteer efforts or financial support, to help the museum become more successful and secure its future.

During an awards ceremony, museum Executive Director Tim Gette said the Adams have been "major supporters of our institution" since it opened in the 1980s.

George Adams is a former city councilman and mayor. Gette said that in those roles, Adams helped area residents realize the value of having the state's natural history museum in the community.

Without Adams' help, the museum might not be in Martinsville today, said Gette.
Jean Adams has "spent an immeasurable amount of time and energy" to further the museum, including serving on its board of trustees for 10 years and helping launch the original Friends of the Museum group, he said.

George Adams indicated he thinks his wife has done more to help the museum than he has. Speaking to men at the awards ceremony, he said humorously that usually "the wife does most of the work. We (husbands) simply back them up."?
The Matthew Fontaine Maury Distinguished Service Award was presented to Suzi Kirby of Martinsville. The award recognizes a business or company that assisted the museum with its development efforts in an exemplary way.

Maury, who lived during the 1800s and was from Fredericksburg, was known as the father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology.

Pam Armstrong, vice president of the museum's board, said Kirby is a part-time employee of the museum who started volunteering there in 1984.

Kirby is "a quiet unassuming woman who has given so generously" of her time, energy and courage to help the museum, Armstrong said.

"Working here has never been a job for me," Kirby said. "It's been a joy."?

Tacoma Inc. of Martinsville, which runs local Taco Bell restaurants, received the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award. The award goes to a company that has shown significant support for natural sciences in Virginia through research, science education or other relevant programs.

Rogers, whom Mount Rogers is named after, was the state's first geologist. He later founded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tacoma funded a museum publication and provides other support, such as lunch for some school classes visiting the museum, officials said.

Accepting the award was Cathie Carter, Tacoma's marketing director.
Also receiving Jefferson Awards were:

"James C. Firebaugh Jr. of Richmond, who received the William Barton Rogers Individual Award. The award is presented to a person who has shown significant support for natural sciences in Virginia through research, science education or other relevant programs.

Firebaugh spent 23 years with the Virginia Department of Education, lastly as director of the Office of Middle and High School Instruction. He previously was a science teacher in Henrico County.

"Charles K. Jervis of Christiansburg, who received the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. The medal is presented to a Virginia educator who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history, environmental and science education.

Jervis is "an innovator in the field of science education" who works at Auburn High School, according to Patricia Gaudreau of the Montgomery County Schools, who presented the award.

"Dr. Joseph C. Mitchell of Gainesville, Fla., who was presented the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science. The medal goes to a person who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.

Mitchell, who has been a research associate with the museum since 1993, is "the embodiment of a Virginia naturalist" who has done research for 40 years on various animals including amphibians and reptiles, said Dr. Richard Hoffman, the museum's curator of recent invertebrates.

Now, Mitchell is working on a reference book about snakes in North America, Hoffman said.

The museum presents the Thomas Jefferson Awards annually. Though only two awards actually mention Jefferson in their titles, the museum considers all of the awards to be Jefferson Awards, said Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs.

The museum named some of its awards after Jefferson because the former president was a major supporter of science and a statesman from Virginia, according to Barber.

Dr. William M. Kelso, director of archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities' "Jamestown Rediscovery" project, was the keynote speaker for the awards ceremony.

Kelso gave a short speech on the history of the Jamestown colony and its importance as the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Remains of some of the settlers have been found, he pointed out, including a boy, a man who was the victim of a gunshot wound, and a man who was buried with a ceremonial spear.

Kelso said that many Jamestown settlers were "astute military folks" and some were talented at glass-making, smelting iron and metallurgy. That contradicts some historians' thinking that settlers were lazy, he said.

The awards ceremony included the unveiling of a plaque in the museum's library honoring current and past Jefferson Award recipients.