Celebrated annually since 1986, the Governor's Awards in the Humanities honor individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the humanities in Georgia. Organized by the Georgia Humanities Council, the awards luncheon and ceremony is attended by the governor, who presents the awards to each honoree. Prior to the ceremony, a distinguished speaker delivers the Annual Humanities Lecture, which is free and open to the public.
On May 10, 2007, the Humanities Lecture was given by Timothy Crimmins and Anne H. Farrisee, coauthors of the book Democracy Restored: A History of the Georgia State Capitol (2007), published by the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press. On that same day Governor Sonny Perdue presented three organizations and ten individuals with awards.
The Coastal Georgia Historical Society, honored for its successful restoration and preservation of historic structures on Georgia's coast and sea islands. Based on St. Simons Island, the society also provides heritage education opportunities to the public by maintaining museums and archives, and by sponsoring lectures, exhibitions, and other educational programs.
The Georgia Review, honored in the year of its sixtieth anniversary for publishing quality literature, as well as reviews and visual art. Garnering numerous awards and national recognition since its inception, the literary journal was edited for more than twenty years by Stanley Lindberg, a former recipient of a Governor's Award in the Humanities. In addition to producing the journal, the staff of the Georgia Review, based in Athens, also organizes symposiums, readings, and other literary events each year.
The Morris Museum of Art, honored for exhibiting the work of regional artists and providing an abundance of educational programs for students, teachers, and the general public in the Richmond County area. Founded in Augusta in 1992, the museum also sponsors an active publication program, and in 2003 it secured an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Cullen Chambers, honored for his contributions to historic preservation as the executive director of the Tybee Island Historical Society. Chambers's successful endeavors include the restoration of numerous structures on the island, including its lighthouse, as well as many of Tybee Island's historic homes and neighborhoods. Through his efforts, several of these neighborhoods were designated as national historic districts.
Cathy Milner Hodge, honored for her contributions to historical education in Georgia. In 1995 she founded Georgia Voyager magazine, which was initially produced for visitors to the state during the 1996 Olympic Games. Today the publication, edited by Hodge, serves as an educational resource, featuring articles on significant people, places, and events in Georgia. Hodge also wrote a field trip guide for Georgia's state parks and the textbook Time Travel through Georgia, served on the educational committee for the G8 Summit on Sea Island in 2004, and created a student essay contest.
Thomas L. McHaney, honored for his substantial scholarship on southern literature, particularly the work of William Faulkner. McHaney is the Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature at Georgia State University in Atlanta and the author of seven books and more than sixty articles. A committed teacher, as well as researcher, McHaney also delivers lectures and presentations to groups around the state and serves on the advisory boards for both the Georgia Center for the Book and the Wren's Nest, the Atlanta home of Georgia writer Joel Chandler Harris.
Gregory B. Paxton, honored for his contributions to community preservation as the executive director and chief executive officer of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Under his leadership, the Georgia Trust has implemented several successful programs, including Talking Walls, itself a former recipient of a Governor's Award in the Humanities. The program offers certification for teachers seeking to use local resources for heritage education in the classroom. Paxton is also active in several state organizations, including the Georgia Cities Foundation, Georgians for Preservation Action, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Giriraj Rao, honored for his efforts as cofounder and executive director of Gandhi Foundation U.S.A. to educate the public about the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Rao collaborated with Coretta Scott King to establish the Gandhi Room at the King Center, led a national effort to erect a statue of Gandhi at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and mounted an exhibition about Gandhi at the Georgia State Capitol.
Hugh Ruppersburg, honored for his contributions to the literary heritage of the state through the compilation and interpretation of works by Georgia's native writers. His printed anthologies, all published by the University of Georgia Press, include the three-volume Georgia Voices, which covers the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry of the state, and After O'Connor, which highlights contemporary Georgia writers. Ruppersburg is also section editor for the literature section of the New Georgia Encyclopedia; in 2007 the literature section was published in book form by the University of Georgia Press as the New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature. He is senior associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Betty Sanders Snyder, honored for both her historic preservation efforts in Milledgeville and her contributions to the establishment of the Old Capitol Museum in that city. As founding executive director of Allied Arts Inc., Snyder directed the restoration projects for a number of buildings in Milledgeville's historic district, and as president of the Antebellum Historical Society she raised funds and acquired artifacts for the museum, which opened to the public in 2005. Snyder also lectures about the history and architecture of Milledgeville at various locations, including the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.
John Waters, honored for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of historic preservation in Georgia. He is the director of graduate studies in historic preservation at the University of Georgia, where since 1982 he has established two master's programs, a certificate program, and a combination law/master's program in historic preservation. In 1980 he coauthored the Georgia Historic Preservation Act, which allows for the creation of historic preservation commissions around the state, and wrote an explanation of that legislation for the public. He is also active in historic preservation efforts in Athens, including the recent return of the Thomas R. R. Cobb house to that city.
Susie Wheeler, honored for her efforts as director of the Noble Hill–Wheeler Memorial Center to preserve the heritage of rural black education in the state. Wheeler worked as a Jeanes Supervisor in Bartow County for twenty years, after graduation from the Noble Hill Rosenwald School and Fort Valley State College (later Fort Valley State University). Upon her retirement from education in 1979, she worked with chief justice Robert Benham to preserve the Noble Hill Rosenwald School and establish the memorial center, where she continues to volunteer.
Philip Lee Williams, honored for his contributions to the literary heritage of the state as a writer and lecturer. Currently the assistant dean for public information and an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of Georgia, Williams has published nine novels, two memoirs, and one children's book. His debut novel, The Heart of a Distant Forest (1984), won the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and in 1991 Williams was named Georgia Author of the Year for Fiction.
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.