The Historical Society of Pennsylvania presented its 2002 Founder’s Awards for Exemplary Service to History on Monday, April 22, to four distinguished members of the historical community:
James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress, for Study and Preservation of History
Charles L. Blockson, Curator, The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University, for Historical Documentation
Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York, for Cultural Leadership in History’s Advancement
Bette Bao Lord, author on modern China and Chinese America, for Historical Art.
The evening at The Down Town Club in Philadelphia began with cocktails at 6:15 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Some 160 friends of the Society attended.
The Society’s Board Chairman, Collin F. McNeil, presided over the evening.
“This year’s award recipients have made highly significant and wonderfully diverse contributions to the advancement of history,” McNeil said. “The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is the guardian of one of the country's premier research collections. The Society not only enriches and maintains the historical record, but also is a champion of history’s uses. The Founder’s Award recipients exemplify these ideals.”
Society President David Moltke-Hansen introduced the award recipients and presenters.
Billington, a native of Bryn Mawr, Pa., has led the Library of Congress into its expanded public outreach role, most notably in major international exhibits and through the establishment of a new National Digital Library and other electronic services for users in remote locations. He is a past director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Society Board Vice Chair Walter Licht presented the award.
Blockson, a noted author, bibliophile, and expert on the Underground Railroad, donated his vast collection of African American history to Temple University in 1984. He is a co-founder of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, former president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and a founding member of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee. Society Board Vice Chair Michael D. Benjamin, also a noted collector of African Americana, presented the award.
Gregorian was president of Brown University prior to his present position, and previously served as president of the New York Public Library and in key offices at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the recipient of some 50 honorary degrees and serves on numerous distinguished boards. Society Board member Barbara L. Greenfield presented the award.
Lord was born in China but was raised in America.In her autobiographical children’s book In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, she wrote of childhood experiences as a Chinese immigrant in Brooklyn. Her first novel, Spring Moon, set in pre-revolutionary China, was an international bestseller. Her 1996 novel Middle Heart spans 70 years of modern Chinese history. She is a Chairman Emeritus of Freedom House. Society Board member Page Talbott presented the award.
The Founder’s Award was established in 2000 as part of the celebration of the Society’s 175th anniversary year. The commissioning of the special medal for the Founder’s Award was sponsored by Lea Aspinwall Cadwalader in memory of her husband, John Cadwalader, a long-time Board member of the Society. The face of the medal is based on Alexander Calder’s model for the statue of William Penn on City Hall. The verso shows the Society’s historic Addison Hutton-designed building at 1300 Locust Street.
Past awardees include:
2000: James Biddle, for Historic Preservation
Clayborne Carson, for Historic Scholarship
Lorene Cary, for Historical Art
Hanna H. Gray, for Historical Philanthropy
Jim Lehrer, for Public History
2001: Vine Deloria, Jr., for Historical Scholarship
Anne d’Harnoncourt, for Cultural Leadership
Barbara M. Jordan, for Historical Philanthropy
Henry A. Jordan, for Historic Preservation
The 2002 reception sponsor was Rohm and Haas. The dinner sponsors were John and Chara Haas and The Rittenhouse Trust Company. The program sponsors were Drinker Biddle & Reath and Mather and Company. The presentation sponsor was The Hamilton Family Foundation. Other sponsors included Binswanger; Louis K. Fox Charitable Trust; Barbara L. Greenfield; Penn Towne Chapter, The Links, Inc.; McCarter & English, LLP; Pepper Hamilton, LLP; PricewaterhouseCoopers; Rorer Asset Management, LLC; The Stephen Philibosian Foundation; Audrey C. Talley; Temple University; and Wilmington Trust Company.
The co-chairs of the Founder’s Award Committee were George W. Connell and John C. Haas. The committee members were Bruce M. Aronow; Michael D. Benjamin; Sandra L. Cadwalader; Bruce K. Fenton; Oliver St. Clair Franklin, OBE; Scheryl Glanton; David Glickman; Barbara L. Greenfield; Nelson G. Harris; Eliza Cope Harrison; W. Whitney Hunter; Walter Licht; Charles E. Mather III; Collin F. McNeil; Albert Momjian, Esquire; Richard D. Smith, Sr.; Audrey C. Talley; and Anne M. Wilms.