Two longtime South Dakota State Historical Society supporters will be announced as winners of the prestigious Robinson Memorial Award on Saturday during the society’s annual history conference.
Michael Lawson of Annandale, Virginia, and Jeanne Kilen Ode of Pierre will be recognized for their lifetime contributions to preserving the history of South Dakota through the award, which is named for former state historians Doane and Will G. Robinson and is one of the Governor’s Awards for History.
“Michael and Jeanne, through their work with the State Historical Society, both have had enormous impacts on preserving our state’s history, and are very deserving of this high honor,” said Ben Jones, State Historian and Director of the State Historical Society.
Lawson has been a supporter of, and contributor to, activities of the State Historical Society for more than 45 years. He has won the society’s Schell Award, given annually to the author of the best article published the previous year in “South Dakota History,” three times. After the Historical Society Press published his volume “Dammed Indians Revisited,” it was chosen to be the One Book South Dakota selection for 2012. Lawson is a member of the Advisory Board of Editors for “South Dakota History” and the South Dakota Historical Society Press.
As the former managing editor of “South Dakota History,” the society’s award-winning quarterly journal, and a longtime employee of the State Historical Society, Ode dedicated nearly 40 years of her life to sharing the history of her home state with the public. Ode, who retired in 2020, played a key role in publishing the society’s hugely successful “Pioneer Girl” books about Laura Ingalls Wilder. She selflessly helped bring other authors’ works to life, to the great benefit of State Historical Society members and other readers throughout the state and region.
Others being recognized Saturday with Governor’s Awards for History include Duke (Durward) Doering of Rapid City, Mrs. Brett Brennan of Waverly-South Shore, Istvan Gombocz of Vermillion, and the Sully County Historical Society of Onida.
Doering is the Individual Award winner. He is being recognized for excellence in the research and preservation of the history of the South Dakota National Guard since 2011, to include his 44 years of National Guard service and his continued service as a part-time historian for the South Dakota National Guard.
Brennan is the History Teacher of the Year. Teaching at Waverly-South Shore High School, she shares history through a special relationship with the student body. Students look forward to her classes, knowing full well that they will take a vast array of knowledge of that course with them into the future. Her principal said students practically beg to get into her classes. Brennan, who has been teaching for 13 years, said the most important aspect of teaching is building relationships with students. Students learn better when there is mutual respect, trust, and a bond with a teacher. She said that while teaching standards and content are always important, so is the teaching of social skills. Her goal is to send productive people into the world.
Gombocz is the winner of this year’s Schell Award. The award is named for Herbert S. Schell, a historian and long-time University of South Dakota professor. Gombocz’s article, “‘Whatever our language, we have the same flag’: The Eureka Rundschau, 1915–1927,” appeared in the fall 2021 issue of the journal. In the article, Gombocz analyzes a popular German-language newspaper in McPherson County, South Dakota. The Eureka Rundschau helped Germans from Russia craft and maintain a dual identity, especially during the tense World War I era. Gombocz is currently a professor emeritus of German at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
The Sully County Historical Society is this year’s Organizational Award winner. Officially formed only on March 1, 2021, society members initially gathered to discuss how to raise $360,000 to restore the interior dome of the county’s 110-year-old courthouse. But the group quickly realized their passion extended beyond one building and they decided to support the preservation of Sully County history for present and future generations. In its short existence, the society has demonstrated how a small group of people can ignite community pride and spirit by tapping into shared history.
Online registrations for this year’s history conference are still being accepted at https://www.sdhsf.org/2022-history-conference-registration-page.html. For more information about the State Historical Society, including how to become a society member, please visit history.sd.gov or call 605-773-6000.
About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution since 2013, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.