Difference-maker will soon be presented Salisbury Award

Salisbury Award 1

A city on the rebound has a major citizen’s award that’s seeing a new significance of its own — The Salisbury Award.

Sometime before the end of the year, a person or organization that has made a major difference in the community — either over a lifetime or the past year — will be lauded in a surprise awarding of a prize that dates to 1926.

Prestigious, meaningful and cherished, the  Salisbury Award is our community’s oldest civic award. It was established in 1926 by local businessman G. William Phillips for the purpose of recognizing “service that has been the greatest benefit to the happiness, prosperity, intellectual advancement or moral growth of the community.”

Those would have to be regarded as some pretty serious community contributions. Because of that, the trustees that bestow the award don’t give it out every year.

When reviewing the Salisbury’s Who’s Who List of previous winners, several years were skipped. In fact, the award. There was even a 17-year break in the award, from 1970-1987; the honor was brought back and philanthropist-businessman Richard Henson was the first winner after that lull.

Phillips’ connection to the award remained a secret to the general public until his death in 1950. Through his will, Phillips endowed the award with a gift of $5,000 and established a committee of community leaders to serve as trustees to select future honorees.

The Salisbury Award may be given to an individual or to an organization in the greater Salisbury region, for a specific achievement or a body of work over time. It has been presented fifty-seven times since 1926.

The first honoree was Fred A. Grier Jr., who was recognized for his efforts in establishing county wide volunteer fire departments. Next was Dr. George Todd, honored for his efforts in establishing the first regional general hospital, now known as Peninsula Regional Medical Center. His son, Dr. G. Nevins Todd Jr., received the award in 2000 for his leadership in the development of the Open Heart Surgery Program at PRMC.

Other past recipients include such easily recognizable names as Ruth Powell, James M. Bennett, Charles Chipman, Avery Hall, Frank Morris (who further endowed the award with a generous gift), Sister Mary Elizabeth Gintling, Frank Perdue, Dick Hazel, Sam Seidel, Dave Grier, Dick Moore, Paul Martin, Virginia Layfield and Mitzi Perdue.

In 2005, the award was presented to Ben’s Red Swings for an effort that inspired the entire community. More recent recipients include Lewis R. Riley, Phillip “Pete” Cooper, Ed Urban and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.

One might think the award includes a banquet, where an invited crowd sits and awaits the announcement. While that has been part of previous year’s planning, the trustees planned a surprise announcement last year when longtime Realtor/developer William Ahtes was honored.

Award supporters filled the lobby of One Plaza East on a day when Ahtes was attending an event upstairs. When the white-haired Salisbury businessman emerged from the elevator, the crowd yelled surprised.

He was presented the awards, as well as other honors by Mayor Jim Ireton and County Executive Rick Pollitt.

The Salisbury Award is administered by a board of trustees that includes Debbie Abbott, Art Cooley, Gordon Gladden, Vic Laws III, John McClellan, Jim Morris, Mat Tilghman, Steve Franklin and Stephanie Willey.

A plaque is presented to the recipient of the award in recognition of their service, and a donation of $500 is made to a charity of their choice.

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