NCPH Board of Directors Award for Extraordinary Service

Awarded for the first time in 2018, the Board of Directors Award for Extraordinary Service is given when the NCPH Board seeks to recognize publicly an individual who has, through long-term and substantive effort, made transformational contributions to the work of NCPH. This award was last presented in 2021.

2021 Award Winner


Bill Bryans

The NCPH Board of Directors is delighted to recognize Bill Bryans with the NCPH Board Award for Extraordinary Service. A member for over thirty years, Bill has been an ever-present force in NCPH leadership now for two decades. He served as NCPH President from 2007-2009, becoming the first person to take on a two-year term. Then, after completing his own term as Past President (2010-2012) he stepped back into that latter role to serve a second term when called upon. Bill twice chaired successful searches for NCPH executive directors, helping to bring two very talented and capable individuals into that position, including the organization’s first full time executive director. During Bill’s last years of Board service he also worked with the Board (including leading members Dee Harris and Mary Rizzo) and Development Committee to create the organization’s Digital Integration Fund, which made possible essential upgrades to the organizations digital presences and publications. Bill was also involved in the efforts to create NCPH’s Council of Past Presidents, which has been instrumental in documenting the history of our now forty-year-old organization, as well as providing advice and input to leadership as we continue to grow.

Since 2015, Bill has served as co-chair and now chair of the Development Committee and guided its efforts to secure the organization’s future through the 2020 Vision endowment campaign. This campaign has been essential to ensure NCPH’s ability to meet the needs of its members. After extending the campaign into Spring 2021, the committee hopes to announce success in meeting the ambitious goal of growing the Endowment to over $1 million, a stunning achievement in any time, but especially remarkable given the circumstances of our final year of campaign fundraising. Bill’s heartfelt appeals and good-natured arm twisting have been a major factor in the campaign’s success. Bill has also dedicated his time and effort to NCPH serving on numerous other committees, including the Long Range Planning Committee, the Curriculum and Training Committee, and the Program Committee for the 1996 Annual Meeting. This record of service is in itself remarkable, but Bill has consistently worked to increase the capacity of the organization, which means that he’s worked on difficult problems and often in the background with good humor and a commitment to the greater good. And in doing so he has served as a model and mentor for the NCPH leaders who have followed him.

As extensive as Bill’s service to NCPH has been, it is only part of the story. He has been a tireless advocate for public historians and an ambassador for the field of public history. Keenly aware of the struggles that public historians faced in academic positions, Bill became a leader in efforts to bring equity to the tenure and promotion process. He represented NCPH as a member of the Working Group on Evaluating Public History Scholarship, a joint committee of NCPH, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association charged with addressing these concerns. He was a co-author of the working group’s report “Tenure, Promotion, and the Publicly Engaged Academic Historian,” as well as the accompanying white paper, which provides best practice guidelines for academic departments to credit publicly engaged scholarship in tenure and promotion decisions. He has also worked to raise the profile of public historians in other professional organizations, such as the Western History Association where he helped to reestablish a public history committee. He is also the author of the entry on “Collaborative Practice” in the NCPH and American Association for State and Local History’s Inclusive Historian’s Handbook.

Bill recently retired after a distinguished career as a teacher, administrator, and publicly engaged scholar at Oklahoma State University (OSU). He earned his BA and MA at Colorado State University before moving up the road to Laramie and the University of Wyoming, where he completed his PhD in 1987. That same year he joined the faculty at OSU where for much of his career he worked as a one-person public history program. In addition to United States and Oklahoma History, Bill taught courses in public history, historic preservation, museum studies, and college pedagogy. During his tenure at OSU, he also directed the Oklahoma Historic Preservation Survey for eight years and served as department head for nearly a decade. Despite Bill’s heavy teaching and administrative commitments, he also remained a practicing public historian, completing numerous National Register nominations and Intensive Level Surveys for the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office, and serving as both chair of the Oklahoma Humanities Council (now Oklahoma Humanities) and president of the Oklahoma Museums Association. All the while he never wavered in his dedication to his students, to NCPH, or to his fellow public historians.

Bill has often been heard to say that he owes his career to NCPH. That might be true, but it is also true that the organization we know today bears the imprint of his dedication and service. For his distinguished career, record of service, and dedication to our organization we present him with the Board Award for Extraordinary Service to the National Council on Public History.

Submission Guidelines

The Board of Directors Award for Extraordinary Service was established in 2018 to recognize publicly an individual who has, through long-term and substantive effort, made transformational contributions to the work of NCPH. The NCPH Board of Directors 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: 317-278-5230
Email: [email protected]


Past Board of Directors Award Winners


  • Cathy Stanton