NCPH Founders Award

In 2015, the NCPH Council of Past Presidents  developed the Founders Award to recognize those individuals who were present at the creation of NCPH and who played critical roles in the organization’s success. This award will be presented each year over the next few years.

Jack M. Holl

After receiving his PhD from Cornell University, Jack Holl started his career in the federal government as a historian at the Atomic Energy Commission in 1974. He “moved” to the new Department of Energy in 1977, all while he “sat at the same desk, doing the same job!” Jack was chief historian of the Department of Energy from 1980 to 1988.

He moved to Kansas State University in 1988, where his responsibilities included being principal investigator of the Argonne History Project and founding director of the Institute for Military History and 20th Century Studies before retiring as professor emeritus of history in 2005. He also consulted with the Department of Energy, History Associates Incorporated, and Argonne National Laboratory. Jack’s prize-winning books include Argonne National Laboratory, 1946-1996 (University of Illinois Press, 1997) and Atoms for Peace and War (University of California Press, 1989).

Jack’s contributions to NCPH drew on his vast administrative experience. He attended the 1979 meeting at the National Archives and became a member of the first board of directors at the 1980 Pittsburgh meeting. Each director represented a constituency, and Jack represented the Society for History in the Federal Government (SHFG). Arnita Jones remembered that “Jack was the person who thought that there ought to be an organization for federal historians,” and he was its first president in 1979-80. He became vice-chair of NCPH in 1983 and chair in 1984, also serving on a myriad of other committees.

Jack reflected, “I was especially gratified that Noel [Stowe] and I together were able to save The Public Historian for the NCPH.” He had the gravitas to negotiate among the principal parties while mentoring younger board members. Ted Karamanski and Barb Howe especially remember a meeting in Chicago where Jack led the executive committee through difficult discussions. To Phil Cantelon, “Jack was absolutely crucial to the survival of the organization;” he “was very important in keeping it alive.” As a token of our gratitude, we promised Jack, as out-going chair in 1985, a life-time subscription to The Public Historian if we found the original copy of the contract. (He’s never collected!) But, again quoting Jack, “my heart has always been deeply committed to the values and objectives of the public history movement. We have had quite a ride, haven’t we?”

Darlene R. Roth

“I was a public historian before there was public history.” That is how Darlene Roth characterizes her pioneering career in which she helped to found one of the country’s first history consulting for-profit businesses, The History Group, in 1974.

When the City of Atlanta’s mass transit agency, MARTA, was planning and constructing its rail system in the mid-1970s, it encountered environmental requirements theretofore unknown, including one we now know as “Section 106,” designed to identify and mitigate disruption to cultural resources. The archaeologists assigned to the study team found themselves at a loss to research and analyze “above ground” resources, but they did find The History Group and Darlene Roth, who, through this multi-year project, developed some of the professional standards still in use for conducting historical CRM work.

Through her MARTA work, Darlene began to develop an expertise in local Atlanta history. She had emphasized aspects of women’s history in her studies at George Washington University, and through that lens she recognized a larger social need for local studies of classically underrepresented populations. Combining social history with study of the built environment, Darlene developed walking tours of historic Atlanta. “Atlanta Women’s History,” “Black Atlanta,” and “Early Atlanta Suburbs,” were among the tours she offered. They were the first local tours ever integrated into a conference of the Organization of American Historians. Darlene also parlayed her growing expertise in local history and its physical manifestations into blockbuster exhibits for the Atlanta History Center and for private entities such as Delta Airlines and the Atlanta Braves.

Darlene first heard the term “public history” when she received an invitation to attend what turned out to be the storied 1979 meeting in Montecito, California, which laid the groundwork for what became NCPH. She had not really known what she was, career-wise, until then. And the reverse is true as well. The other founders of NCPH—mainly academics and federal historians—were discovering what a rich and encompassing field public history could be. Darlene served on the acting executive committee elected to organize the National Council on Public History, incorporated in the District of Columbia on May 2, 1980. She also served on the original board of directors, which, in effect, was “the national council” until NCPH became a membership organization in 1984.

Submission Guidelines

The NCPH Founders Award was established in 2015 to recognize those individuals who were present at the creation of NCPH and who played critical roles in the organization’s success. The NCPH Council of Past Presidents administers the award and selects the winner. Award winners receive complimentary meeting registration and a ticket for the awards breakfast.


Phone: 317-274-2716
Fax: 317-2785230
Email: [email protected]


Past Founders Award Winners


  • Arnita A. Jones
  • Philip L. Cantelon


  • G. Wesley Johnson
  • Robert W. Pomeroy, III