THREE RHODE ISLANDERS ARE AMONG SEVEN TO BE HONORED BY THE NATION’S GOVERNORS FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO STATES
AWARDS WILL BE PRESENTED IN JULY AT NGA ANNUAL MEETING IN BOSTON
Three Rhode Islanders are among the seven individuals that have been selected by the National Governors Association (NGA) to be honored at its upcoming Annual Meeting in July for significant contributions to public service. The Rhode Island recipients will include: Dr. David R. Gifford, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, in the State Officials category; Dr. Warren Simmons, Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, in the Private Citizens category; Barnaby Evans, creator of WaterFire, in the Distinguished Service to the Arts category.
The Awards for Distinguished Service to State Government will be presented Friday, July 9 during the opening plenary session of the NGA Annual meeting, which will take place in Boston, Massachusetts. Each state was allowed to nominate only one person in each of the three categories.
“I am pleased that all three Rhode Island nominees were selected. While it is unusual for the NGA to give so many awards to one state, it is clear that the selection committee believed that Dr. Gifford, Dr. Warren Simmons, and Barnaby Evans deserve recognition for their extraordinary accomplishments. I wholeheartedly agree with their decision. I extend my thanks and appreciation to each for their contributions to improve our state,” said Governor Donald Carcieri. “This is a testament to the quality of individuals we have working in every facet of our community; government, education and the arts.”
“These award recipients are true leaders who have made significant contributions to their states and the nation,” said NGA Chair Vermont Governor Jim Douglas. “On behalf of all of the governors, I would like to thank these individuals for their service and for their willingness to use their time and talents for the enrichment of the state.”
Distinguished Service Award – Public Official
Dr. David R. Gifford, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health
In nominating Dr. David Gifford, Gov. Carcieri emphasized Dr. Gifford’s commitment to innovative thinking and the well-being of all Rhode Island citizens. Dr. Gifford steered the development of the state employee wellness program, Get Fit RI, which served as a catalyst for achieving Rhode Island’s ambitious goal of earning the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA)’s first Well State Award in. He has been a consistent advocate for immunization, and under his direction the Rhode Island Department of Health has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control for maintaining some of the highest childhood immunization rates in the country for over a decade.
In selecting Dr. Gifford, the NGA also highlighted the Health Department director’s highly effective response to the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010. He mobilized his staff and a network of community partners in an effort to making vaccination clinics more accessible throughout the state, resulting in the highest H1N1 flu vaccination rate in the country. Nearly 36 percent of the state population, including 73 percent of Rhode Island children, received the vaccination.
“Dr. Gifford presents a results-oriented management style that has transformed the Department of Health,” said Governor Carcieri. “Virtually every citizen of our state has felt the impacts of his official actions.”
“I am honored to be nominated for and to receive this award from NGA,” said of Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “I am proud to lead a state Department of dedicated and hard-working employees. Without the Health Department staff, the support of Governor Carcieri, and all of our partners, we would not have been able to respond to all the public health emergencies or contribute to the state’s successful wellness efforts.”
Distinguished Service Award – Private Citizen
Dr. Warren Simmons, Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
Dr. Warren Simmons, selected in the Private Citizens category, has led the Annenberg Institute for over a decade in working with school systems and communities in Rhode Island and around the nation to improve the conditions and outcomes of schooling in America, especially in urban communities and in schools serving disadvantaged children. To address the decline in the performance of urban schools in Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri appointed Dr. Simmons to lead the Urban Education Task Force (UETF) in early 2008 and began a rigorous study and planning process for improving educational opportunities for children living in urban communities. In nominating Dr. Simmons, the Governor cited Dr. Simmons’ expertise and leadership in gathering information, developing a set of best practices, and beginning immediate implementation of task force recommendations.
“It is through Warren’s commitment to improving education for our urban children, and his sheer force of will, that the state has made progress in moving the task force recommendations forward,” said Governor Carcieri, “His leadership and vision make him a very deserving recipient of this award.”
“I will graciously accept this award on behalf of the 34 Task Force Members and Annenberg Institute staff who worked tirelessly for 18 months to strengthen the foundation for urban school reform in Rhode Island,” said Dr. Simmons. “I also want to express my gratitude to Governor Carcieri, Commissioner Gist, and
Janet Durfee Hidalgo for bringing the Task Force’s recommendations to life during this past year, which was capped recently by the RI General Assembly’s passage of a school funding formula that will advance education for students throughout the State.”
Distinguished Service to the Arts
Barnaby Evans, creator of WaterFire
Barnaby Evans, who will be honored for Distinguished Service to the Arts, is a renowned artist and creator of WaterFire, the art installation consisting of small bonfires blazing above the surface of the rivers that run through downtown Providence. Governor Carcieri’s nomination of Mr. Evans underscored the impact that WaterFire has had on the arts and tourism in Rhode Island, and the international attention it has brought the state. WaterFire has attracted over 10 million visitors with an average attendance of 40,000 per night, generated over $45 million in new spending each year, inspired the work of scores of artists, and exposed the public to numerous performance artists, visual arts, and musical entertainment – all for free.
“Barnaby’s impact on our arts community, the City of Providence, and the State of Rhode Island has been remarkable. With each lighting, WaterFire has brought the community together, exposed thousands of tourists to our beautiful state, expanded the appreciation and understanding of many new art forms, and provided a stage for talented local artists,” said Governor Carcieri.
“I am deeply honored to be recognized for this national award by Governor Carcieri and the National Governors Association. WaterFire is an artwork that is a celebration of community. Just like our building of the bonfires, WaterFire is made possible by everyone contributing their part to making our world a better place,” said Barnaby Evans. “The light we kindle at WaterFire illuminates our entire city, just as it also speaks to our future. The fires symbolize the hopes and dreams of the many thousands who gather along the river. The firelight reflected in their faces shows the engagement and commitment of all our citizens to coming together to build a bright future for our State.”
Established in 1976, the NGA Awards for Distinguished Service to State Government enable governors to bring national recognition to their states’ most valuable civil servants and private citizens. The awards emphasize the commitment of state administrators and the important contributions private citizens make to their states. The awards program is administered by a selection committee comprised of three permanent representatives from the academic community, as well as designees chosen by the NGA chair and vice chair.
The complete list of Distinguished Service Award winners includes:
- Dr. David Gifford, Director, Department of Health, Rhode Island
- Katherine B. Miller, Cabinet Secretary, Department of Finance and Administration, New Mexico
- Joe Rogers and Bob Hatcher, Co-Chairs, Commission for a New Georgia, Georgia
- Dr. Warren Simmons, Executive Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University,
Distinguished Service to the Arts
- Barnaby Evans, Artist and Creator of WaterFire, Rhode Island
- Willie Ney, Executive Director and Founder, Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives, University of
NOTE: Media interested in covering the NGA Annual Meeting must pre-register online at http://www.subnet.nga.org/AM10/a43/gen/index.htm. This secure site provides all pertinent meeting information, including a draft agenda and hotel reservation form.
The deadline for advance registration is 12:00 noon (EDT), Tuesday, July 6, 2010. Reporters and producers who miss advance registration must register on site, but should expect delays in clearing security and obtaining credentials. All media must pick up their individual credentials in person at the Sheraton Boston. Two forms of identification are required to pick up NGA credentials—even if media pre-register. These must include a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) and a current press credential or business card.
Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths. NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing and implementing innovative solutions to public policy challenges through the NGA Center for Best Practices. For more information, go to www.nga.org