2018 History Nebraska Award Winners

Our mission is to collect, preserve, and share Nebraska’s rich history with all people. However, we’re not in this alone. There are also everyday Nebraskans that make it their personal mission to do the same. Every year, we recognize the best of those people and honor them with the History Nebraska Awards.

At History Nebraska, our mission is to collect, preserve, and share Nebraska’s rich history with all people. However, we’re not in this alone. There are also everyday Nebraskans that make it their personal mission to do the same. Every year, we recognize the best of those people and honor them with the History Nebraska Awards.



The awards were handed out in early March at the 2019 Legislative Reception held by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation at the Nebraska History Museum. Those presented with an award are detailed below.

Champion of History Award Winner



Vickie DeJong. Pierce, Nebraska.



This award is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions by an individual or group that helps preserve or interpret Nebraska history. Vickie DeJong has shows a strong passion for Nebraska history throughout her life and has done wonders for helping others connect to history through her volunteering efforts.



She helped to design the Genealogy Help Group at the Lied Pierce Public Library. She has also served as a volunteer for the Pierce Historical Society since 2000 and has assisted in creating various events and displays at the local museum, and is currently helping develop a book on the sesquicentennial of Pierce. She has also worked with her daughter to create five books focused on Pierce County war veterans and casualties.

Excellence in Teaching Award



Robert Kerr. Hastings High School.



This award is presented annually to a teacher who excels in teaching Nebraska history through creativity and imagination. This year’s winner is Robert Kerr of Hastings, Nebraska.



Kerr developed and launched a one-semester Nebraska history class at Hastings High School three years ago, which has gained so much student interest that it has grown to four classes. In his class, students learn about natural history with hands-on activities, discuss Native American histories and the impact of white settler migration, and discover the role Hastings itself has played in state and national history. Kerr’s students leave his class with an appreciation of history and an understanding of its importance in their education.

History Nebraska Advocacy Award



Karen Windhusen. Syracuse, Nebraska.



This award is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions or assistance to History Nebraska by an individual or organization through volunteerism, advocacy, or donation. This year’s winner is Karen Windhusen of Syracuse, Nebraska, who has served as a volunteer for History Nebraska for 11 years.



As a curiosity guide at the Nebraska History Museum, she has been a catalyst for developing new tours that promote curiosity through learning. As a former secondary school teacher, she easily connects with children of all ages from across the state and encourages every student to use critical thinking to understand the subject matter. Her open-mindedness and optimism in the face of daily challenges have made her a model for other curiosity guides.

Preserving Nebraska’s history is not limited just to small objects and digital records. we also strive to preserve homes, neighborhoods, commercial buildings, and downtown districts. As part of the 2018 History Nebraska Awards, we also presented two Nebraska State Historic Preservation Awards.

Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award #1



Cohen-Esrey Development Group



The first recipient of the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award is the Cohen-Esry Development Group, which recently completed a seven-year project o rehabilitate the old Hastings Brewery Building into 35 essential housing units in Hastings. the Brewery building had been vacant for longer than it had actually operated as a brewery prior to Nebraska’s Prohibition of alcohol in 1917.



In 2015, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which made it eligible for rehabilitation using federal and state tax credits. This group brought many people together to bring new life into an iconic building in downtown Hastings.

Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award #2



Scott Darling, Katie Darling, Candice Gardea



The recipients of our second Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award are Scott and Katie Darling, and their daughter Candice Gardea, the proud owners of the Palace Hotel in Pender, Nebraska. Built in 1892, the Palace Hotel served railroad employees and passengers and was a hub of activity in Pender. In addition to having rooms to rent, it housed the Thurston County Courthouse and Jail for 38 years before the county moved down the street. Eventually, the second and third stories were closed off, and only the storefronts were utilized.



The owners saw something special in the old hotel and, utilizing federal and state tax credits, they began to restore it. Their labor of love has provided much needed economic development and housing for the community and is an excellent example of the positive impact rehabilitating a historic building can have on our smaller Nebraska communities.

James L. Sellers Memorial Award



Ashley Howard. New Orleans, Louisiana



Every quarter, we publish the scholarly journal Nebraska History Magazine as a benefit for members who support our mission. The James L. Sellers Award is presented annually to recognize the best article published in Nebraska History Magazine the previous year. This year’s recipient is Ashley Howard, author of “Then the Burnings Began: Omaha’s 1966 Revolt and the Efficacy of Political Violence.” The award was judged by the history department at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, who wrote:




This excellent article recasts the violence deployed on the streets of Omaha in the late 1960s as a deliberate political tactic instead of wanton destruction. Howard effectively used oral history interviews—both conducted by the author and from the Nebraska Black Oral History Project—to complement extensive research in traditional primary sources such as newspapers. While the violence, then and now, garners the headlines, Howard demonstrates that these urban uprisings resulted from years of racial injustice

Asa T. Hill Memorial Award



Terry Steinacher. Crawford, Nebraska.



This award recognizes an individual for oustanding research in the field of Great Plains archeology. This year’s recipient is Terry Steinacher of Crawford, Nebraska, who dedicated 30 years of service as an archeologist for History Nebraska. During his tenure, he has been credited for extensively updating our archeology program. Most notably, he:




    • Built our historic preservation review and compliance program for archeology.

    • Encouraged development of the Nebraska State Archeology Law.

    • Was a motivating force behind the development of the Nebraska archeological site Geographic Information System.

    • Developed a program that resulted in the inspection of hundreds of thousands of acres, recording several thousand new archeological sites.

    • Spearheaded a park-wide survey of all standing buildings and archeological ruins in and around Fort Robinson and excavated several Fort area barracks.


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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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