Helmstutler, Office Coordinator
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE – May 17, 2011
Center for Research on Vermont 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award
to Jane C. Beck, Director Emeritus of Vermont Folkife Center
At the award ceremony, Gregory Sharrow, Director of Education and Folklorist, and Andy Kolovos, Archivist, both of the Vermont Folklife Center, paid tribute to Beck’s many contributions to research on Vermont culture and history. They played excerpts of three oral interviews that Beck conducted with local Vermonters, each highlighting a different aspect of everyday life: humor, local knowledge, and historical knowledge. Together these recordings provided a sense of the breadth and depth of Beck’s career which was devoted to folklore research and education. As Sharrow and Kolovos noted, they also demonstrated the warm quality of enduring relationships that Beck formed with staff members, interviewees, and students.
Beck first became interested in folklore while an undergraduate student at Middlebury College (BA, 1963). She went on to earn a Masters (1964) and a Doctorate (1969) in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon her return to Vermont, Beck produced a long list of articles, radio programs, curricula, slide shows, videos, books, and museum exhibits focused on the culture of the state. Her work has been published in journals and magazines such as “Canadian Folklore”, “Yankee”, and “Vermont Life” and has been aired on Vermont Public Radio and Adirondack Public Radio. Many Vermonters will recall her interviews with Daisy Turner, the daughter of two former slaves who resided in Vermont. In 1983 she founded the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, Vermont and served as its Executive Director until her retirement in 2007. During this time she grew the Folklife Center into a robust institution that provides outstanding public education, research, and archival services to the State.
Over the course of her impressive career, Beck served two terms as President and several years as Board Member for the American Folklore Society, was a Trustee for the Shelburne Museum, and sat on the Smithsonian Advisory Council for the Bureau of Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies.
Beck has received a number of other prestigious awards including: The Governor’s Extraordinary Vermonter award in 1990, a Peabody Award to the Vermont Folklife Center for “Journey’s End” also in 1990, an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Middlebury College (1995), the Benjamin Botkin Award from the American Folklore Society (1996), and in 2004, the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
The Center for Research on Vermont, established in 1975 by University of Vermont faculty with Vermont-related teaching and research interests, is today an interdisciplinary network joining like-minded persons from all manner of Vermont institutions and professions—government, K–12 education, social services, the media, museums and other cultural entities, colleges and universities, and independent scholars. The scholarly community whom the Center represents feels a special commitment and responsibility to develop and pursue opportunities for research on Vermont. The Center seeks to facilitate these activities and enhance public awareness of the need, possibility, and significance of such scholarly work, demonstrating the University of Vermont’s attention and responsiveness in a uniquely important area.