The Harris Center recognized several extraordinary partners and volunteers at our 51st Annual Meeting on October 15. This was our second online Annual Meeting, with Board members, staff, supporters, and friends smiling at each other from Zoom boxes.
Robin Fairfield, kindergarten teacher at Marlborough Elementary School, was honored with the Educator of the Year Award. Harris Center teacher-naturalist Karen Rent — who has collaborated with Robin over the last several years on lessons focused on squirrels, animal senses, and forest ecology — presented the award, saying, “What makes Robin stand out is her commitment to providing opportunities every day for her kindergarten students to get outside to explore, investigate, and play. Last fall, I was waiting outside of Marlborough Elementary School. It was the start of the pandemic teaching year. I was feeling uncertain about how to teach during these unprecedented times, and I was nervous about how the students would adjust to a different learning environment. In my mind, things felt strange and unsettled. As I was waiting outside the school, I saw Robin arrive outdoors with her students. They were laughing, happy, so excited to get outside. Many chose to roll down the grassy hill, and Robin rolled right down the hill next to them, laughing alongside them. I remember this simple act because it made me feel like the world was still okay. Her students will always remember having a teacher that showed them how to feel at home in nature…Thank you, Robin, for helping to nurture the next generation of nature lovers.”
The 2021 Laurie Bryan Partnership Award — honoring former Harris Center Executive Director Laurie Bryan’s achievements in working with community partners — was given to the Hancock Town Library, under the leadership of Library Director Amy Markus. In presenting the award, Harris Center Community Programs Director Susie Spikol said, “Together, the Harris Center and Hancock Town Library have dreamed up and hosted countless programs. Our work together has run the gamut from intellectually stimulating talks to playful collaborations like displaying a scat collection in the display cases at the library and StoryWalks in every season. No matter what we partner on, the Harris Center can count on Amy Markus and the staff at the Hancock Town Library to bring passion and energy to each of our shared projects. Tonight’s award is a reminder of how when we put our minds together, share mutual creativity, and work to make opportunities of all types available to people of all ages, we are always more successful than if we’d worked alone.”
Volunteer Extraordinaire Awards were presented to two outstanding Harris Center volunteers — Hancock wood carver Jack McWhorter and Tom Delaney of Peterborough. At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Jack took up an ambitious and artful project that has been delighting hikers ever since: carving creatures out of downed trees along the Harris Center’s Harriskat Trail. Tom has been a familiar face at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory in Peterborough since 2007. In presenting that award, Hawk Watch Coordinator Phil Brown said, “Tom provides great company and conversation, a warm smile, and great bird-finding abilities. When he isn’t busily finding and identifying distant specks over North Pack in his scope, he is warmly greeting visitors, making each visitor to the Hawk Watch feel welcome – something that helps Pack stand out as a welcoming community space.”
Harris Center Executive Director Jeremy Wilson also recognized Stephen Froling for 17 years of valued service to the Harris Center, both as a past Board member and as the organization’s volunteer corporate counsel for land protection projects. Stephen’s considerable land conservation legacy spans thousands of acres.
In addition to these awards, outgoing trustees David Sobel, Carol Young, and Timothy Jordan were thanked for their service, and Steve Lamonde and Ethan Harper-Lentricchia were welcomed as new trustees. The meeting closed with a showing of “Nightsongs,” an Emmy-winning video short by SALT, featuring Harris Center staff member Eric Masterson.