History Makers Saluted at Society’s Dinner

It was a bit like a family reunion last Wednesday at the Troy Community Center. In attendance were former Police Chief Lawrence Carey, former Troy department heads like City Planner Larry Keisling and Troy Assessor Ernie Reschke, and now-retired Superintendent of Troy Schools Dr. Barbara Fowler.

They were all in attendance at a dinner to salute those who had made a difference in Troy’s history.

Troy Historic Village, along with the City of Troy and the Troy Public Library, hosted the 3rd Annual Embracing Excellence and new History Makers Awards Ceremony.

The event celebrated the Troy Historical Society’s 50th Anniversary, along with a special tribute to the Troy Public Library, which turns 45 this year. New this year, the event will laud  individual History Makers who through their personal efforts and leadership have helped to build our vibrant and creative community.

Nominations for the History Makers Awards were received and reviewed by a committee of Troy community leaders based on the seven facets that make a vibrant and creative community: Visionary Thinking, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity, Business and Philanthropy, Health and Fitness, Art and Culture, Environmental Stewardship, and Education.

This year the following were selected for their contributions:

Visionary Thinking

The Barnard Family, for Norman Barnard’s leadership and efforts to establish the City of Troy in 1955 and for Norman, Harriet, and their children’s commitment to preserving the community’s history through the Troy Historical Society and the Troy Historic Village.

Frank Gerstenecker for his leadership as City Manager during the City of Troy’s period of rapid growth and for his guidance in making Troy an attractive city and a desirable place to live, work, and play in Southeast Michigan.

Ethnic and Culture

Padma Kuppa, for her advocacy through the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion and the Hindu American Foundation on behalf of Indian origin residents in Troy and the region.

Haifa Fakhouri for her outstanding leadership as the President and CEO of the Arab American Chaldean Council, which assists immigrants as they arrive in Troy; seek training programs and employment; and work to build self-sufficiency.

Business and Philanthropy

Sam Frankel for his leadership in building major developments along the Big Beaver Corridor including Somerset Inn, Somerset Apartments, the Sheffield Office Plaza, and the prestigious Somerset Collection. Additionally, Frankel demonstrated great philanthropy through his contributions to the DIA, U of M School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, and the Boys & Girls Club of Troy.

Health and Fitness

Roger Kowalski, the director of Troy’s Parks and Recreation Department for 26 years, was a leader and driving force for the establishment of 23 of the City’s 30 parks and a community center, golf course, nature center, and aquatic center. He also fostered cooperative development and shared maintenance of facilities with the Troy School District.

Art and Culture

Clara Blankenship, for her tireless leadership of the Friends of the Troy Public Library. Between 1962 and 1968 Clara served simultaneously as the organization’s publicity chairperson, historian, and president. Fittingly, the Children’s Room in the Troy Public Library was named in her honor in 1970.

Her grandchildren were there to recall that as kids they canvassed neighborhoods asking for book donation to stock the first library, which was in the old Troy High School on Livernois, and which we all now know as the Troy Community Center.

Environmental Stewardship

Pam and Mike Brady, environmental advocates, educators, and citizens who have led by example in their daily efforts to manage rainwater, protect regional watersheds and rivers, and recycle. The Brady’s have written columns, distributed information at community events, and developed educational exhibits at the Troy Public Library.

Education

Dr. Janet Jopke was the Superintendent of the Troy School District from 1993 to 2005. Through her outstanding leadership, every school in the district achieved exemplary status and became accredited by the North Central Association. She also established a latchkey program which became the state standard and advocated for funding that brought the latest technology to the district.

Former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine commented “I appreciate the fact that Troy Historic Village and the Troy Historical Society bring history to life and with the creation of the History Makers Awards are making residents aware of individuals that have made the city what it is today.”

The event also featured a special Troy Historical Society exhibit and vignettes from “Many Stories, One Heritage,” an oral history project made possible by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council. “Many Stories, One Heritage” is an important project that is preserving the authentic voices and experiences in Troy’s rich multi-cultural community.