Washington Roots Award
- The annual Washington Roots award recognizes a person with “roots” in Washington who has made a significant contribution to society.
- Nominations are accepted in early spring. Nominations not selected will be held and considered for a period.
- ELIGIBILITY: Nominees must have spent a portion of their childhood in Washington, and made a significant contribution in one of the following areas: science, government, arts, sports, or charitable work.
- The recipient will be honored on Homecoming weekend and must be available to attend and to present a program (45 min – 1 hr in length).
Past Award Recipients
Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient, 2019
Phil Bremen is an associate professor emeritus at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he taught for 17 years. He chaired the news concentration in the Department of Telecommunications before retiring in 2018.
Bremen came to Ball State in 2001 after serving Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon as his press secretary throughout O’Bannon’s first term.
Previously Bremen was a network television correspondent for NBC News, covering parts of five continents from bureaus in Miami, Frankfurt (Germany) and London. During the civil war in El Salvador, Bremen was the first television correspondent to report the murder of four Roman Catholic missionaries from the United States. He was also first to substantiate a massacre by a Salvadoran government death squad. In the Middle East he covered the Iran-Iraq war and the Lebanese civil war. During part of the Cold War, he served as NBC’s acting bureau chief in Moscow.
He has also been an anchor and reporter in Indianapolis and Minneapolis-St. Paul as well as the public television network in New Jersey. At the age of 14 he got his start as a newspaper reporter and photographer at The Tazewell County Reporter in Washington, Illinois. Then, while still attending Washington Community High School, he became a reporter and photographer at WMBD-TV and a newscaster on WMBD radio, both in Peoria.
Bremen earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a master’s in communication studies from Ball State. He also has studied at the University of Durham, England, and at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary, both in Indianapolis.
At Ball State, he helped build the consensus and the curriculum for one of the country’s first interdepartmental journalism programs, exposing students to the broad range of skills they will need in today’s multi-platform news environment.
Professor Bremen was co-principal investigator under a $2.5 million federal cooperative agreement, creating training courses in crisis communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He has led instructional sessions for the groups including the National Governors Association and the national Broadcast Education AssociationHe achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.
He has been honored as a Sagamore of the Wabash, conferred by Gov. O’Bannon (2000), and as a Kentucky Colonel (2003).He and his wife Susie, also a retired educator, live in Indianapolis.
Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2018
Dr. Tom Gross retired in 2016 after thirty-nine years of medical practice and receiving multiple honors for his leadership and research in his field of high-risk obstetrics. Tom married his high school sweetheart, Judy Ogborn. Tom decided to specialize in obstetrics, which involved a three-year residency in Akron, Ohio. In 2003 Tom and Judy returned to live in their hometown and contributed to making historical Washington even more historical be restoring two buildings on the square.
Dr. Gross is Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient 2018,
Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2017
The Washington Historical Society is pleased to announce that the Honorable Kate Gorman is the 2017 Roots Award recipient. 10th Circuit Judge Gorman is a life-long resident of Washington and an active community member. She is a graduate of Central School District, Washington Community High School, a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois, and Southern Illinois University Law School.
She practiced law with the firm of Prusak and Winnie for fourteen years before becoming a partner in 1999. She was also a hearing officer for the Peoria Housing Authority and is a certified mediator.
By appointment to fill a vacancy, Judge Gorman became an Associate Circuit Judge in November 2007, where she presided over felony and misdemeanor jury and bench trials in criminal court, traffic court, domestic violence court, as well as diverse civil disputes. She was elected Judge of the 10th Circuit Court in 2012.
Judge Gorman is known as a hard-working judge with impeccable scholarly credentials who decides cases in a fair-minded and even- tempered manner. She holds memberships in the Washington Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Judges Association, Peoria County Bar Association, and the Illinois Bar Association as well as being active in judicial education through the Administrative Office of Courts. In 2011, Peoria Magazine named her as a Woman of Influence ,and when asked to describe herself in three words she replied, “Hometown, diplomatic, and careful.”
The Roots Award is given annually to someone who spent at least a portion of their childhood in Washington, IL and has made a significant contribution to science, government, art, sports, or charitable work. Judge Gorman will attend and speak at a reception in her honor on September 28, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and ride in the homecoming parade on September 29.
Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2016
Marching to a beat of his own, we are pleased to announce our 2016 Washington Roots Award recipient, Gene Thrailkill! Famed for his half-time shows in Oklahoma, Thrailkill is an award-winning marching band director, enjoying a full career with The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. He is a 1956 graduate of Washington Community Highschool and will be returning to his beloved home town in September for a reception in his name on Thursday, Sept 22nd, at 6:30pm at St. Marks Church in Washington.
Touting 30-year tenure with The Pride of Oklahoma, Thrailkill half-time shows were regularly featured on national television during college football games because of the skill and intricacy seen within the shows. His hard work and dedication to the program is often cited as the reason for such success. And while under the direction of Thrailkill, the University of Oklahoma marching band were the recipients of the prestigious Sudler Trophy for most outstanding marching band in the nation in 1987. This is just one of the many honors bestowed upon Thrailkill in his career.
An all-round musical guy, Thrailkill’s career history consists of a 5-year tenure at Ohio State University, recruitment by Oklahoma with a 30-year tenure, and prestigious titles of Director of Bands Emertis, Regent’s Professor Emeritus, Professor of Music Emeritus, and Gene A. Braught Chair Emertius. As a professor of music, he taught instrumental music education and served on numerous education committees nationally and in Oklahoma. He is also a decorated director, being the recipient of the Prestigious Alumni “Medal of Merit for Achievement in Music” (Ohio University), the Associates Distinguished Lectureship (University of Oklahoma Board of Regents), Administrator of the Year, and the Walter Neustadt Award, given by the University Student Council for his outstanding service to the students of Oklahoma. And now he’s adding Washington Roots Award recipient to that list!
We are so thrilled to be naming Thrailkill as our 2016 Washington Roots Award recipient, and honor him for his grand accomplishments in the music field. Please join us on at 6:30pm on Thursday, Sept. 22, for a reception and presentation at St. Mark’s Church in Washington. You won’t want to miss this!