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January 30, 2019

The Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation held its 32nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards ceremony March 21, 2019 at Natural Bridge State Park.

The VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards ceremony is a statewide event that honors individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science, natural science education, and conservation.

The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science was presented to Dr. Gerald V. Gibbs, University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.  This award is presented to an individual who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.

For more than a half century, Dr. Gibbs has researched the most fundamental aspects of matter, both natural materials as well as synthetic materials that form the basis of our modern technological society and economy.  Dr. Gibbs work impacts everything in Earth's environment, ranging from the properties of minerals that make up the rocks in its mountains to the special characteristics of synthetic materials that are used in a wide range of industrial and electronic applications.  In his career, Dr. Gibbs has published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles and his published work has earned over 11,500 citations.  His 1982 paper titled “Molecules as models for bonding in silicates” is regarded as a classic in the scientific community that is still today highly cited, nearly 40 years after its initial publication.

The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education was presented to Dr. Brooke Haiar, Associate Professor in the department of Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Sustainability at the University of Lynchburg.  This award is presented to a Virginia educator who has made significant contributions to natural history or natural science education at any academic level.

Dr. Haiar has dedicated her career to the history of life on Earth, with specific focus on the paleoecology of the Morrison and Cloverly Formations of the Western Interior of the United States.  For well over a decade, Dr. Haiar has teamed-up with museum curators and researchers to lead dinosaur fossil dig expeditions in Wyoming.  Uniquely, Dr. Haiar gives her students the opportunity to participate in these expeditions, giving students a rare opportunity for highly impactful, first-hand field work experience.

The William Barton Rogers Individual Award was presented to William Henika, Geologist at Virginia Tech.  This award is presented to individuals who have shown significant support for the Virginia Museum of Natural History and for natural sciences in Virginia.

Henika has been a strong supporter of the Virginia Museum of Natural History for many years, serving as an active research associate while providing support for major research and exhibits initiatives.  Thanks to the support of Bill and Mary Jane Henika, the museum unveiled a dynamic new fluorescent minerals exhibit in 2018 that highlights the intriguing fluorescent characteristics of a wide variety of minerals found throughout the United States.  The Pete Henika Memorial Fund was recently established thanks to the support of Bill and Mary Jane Henika in honor of the late Pete Henika, brother of Bill.  The Pete Henika Memorial Fund is a permanent endowment fund established to support high-impact, natural history research projects.

The William Barton Rogers Corporate Award was presented to the Norfolk Southern Foundation in recognition of significant support for exhibits, education and research programs.  This award is given to an organization that has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia through support of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Over the years, the Trust's support has played a key role in allowing the museum to offer exceptional experiences to its visitors through support of exhibits and events.

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