History Nebraska announces 2023 awardees from across the state

By: - March 14, 2023 2:34 pm
History Nebraska

History Nebraska, formerly known as the Nebraska State Historical Society, is located just off the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus at 1500 R St. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — History Nebraska has announced its 2023 awardees from across the state to Nebraskans in Beatrice, Hastings, Lincoln, Peru and Omaha.

This year, History Nebraska will present five awards at an April 26 event at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. The awards recognize people who provide “significant contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history,” according to the organization.

The 2023 honorees:

  • Champion of History Awards: Richard “Dick” Witt of Hastings; Debora Heard and Claire Du Laney, both of Omaha.
  • History Nebraska Excellence in Teaching Award: Sara Crook of Peru.
  • Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award: Main Street Beatrice in Beatrice.
  • James L. Sellers Award: Gail Blankenau of Lincoln.

Champion of History 

The champion award recognizes those who help preserve or interpret Nebraska history.

Witt is honored for being a “driving force” in preserving the written history of Adams County, including editing the Adams County Historical Society’s “Historical News” publication.

Heard is the project coordinator for the “Charting Our Path DEAI Strategic Investment Project” at the University of Nebraska at Omaha while Du Laney is the UNO Outreach Archivist. The project celebrates, promotes and documents the 50th anniversary of the UNO Department of Black Studies.

History Nebraska Excellence in Teaching 

This teaching award recognizes a teacher who excels in teaching Nebraska history in creative and imaginative ways.

Crook, who has spent 38 years teaching history at Peru State College, has “demonstrated a passion for getting students to appreciate the state of Nebraska.” A component of her course includes the Nebraska Historical Marker program, which led to several markers being selected and erected across the state. Crook also led various trips nationwide.

Nebraska State Historic Preservation 

The historic preservation award recognizes significant achievements in historic preservation by an individual or organization.

Main Street Beatrice has worked closely with the State Historical Preservation Office to promote tax credit programs, educate the community and create events to engage with the public and local politicians. The group’s work has also helped in preserving and opening up second stories of downtown buildings.

James L. Sellers Memorial 

The memorial award, created in 1967, is given annually to the “best article” published in a volume of “Nebraska History Magazine.” The author also receives $1,000 from the foundation through the support of Catherine Sellers Angle.

The faculty of Nebraska Wesleyan University’s History Department judged and selected Blankenau as the winner. According to the organization, the judges “were impressed at how the article challenged the common assumption that slavery was not a part of Nebraska history through a detailed case-study that showed how the national debate over slavery played out in the territory.”

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C., and has reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan.