The state’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award, will be presented to nine distinguished North Carolinians Thursday, Nov. 18, at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Governor Roy Cooper will present the award.
The award was created by the General Assembly in 1961 to recognize significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science.
The 2020 honorees are Dr. Ralph S. Baric, Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett. All will receive the North Carolina Award for Science in recognition of their work to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
The 2021 honorees are Dr. Dudley E. Flood for Public Service, David Holt for Fine Arts, Maria F. Spaulding for Public Service, André Leon Talley for Literature, Dr. Timothy B. Tyson for Literature and Dr. Blake S. Wilson for Science.
“Through their extraordinary accomplishments, these individuals have enriched North Carolina and our nation,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Each of them has enhanced the lives of North Carolinians through their lasting achievements in the arts, sciences and public service.”
2020 Award Recipients:
Science: Dr. Ralph S. Baric
Dr. Ralph Baric has spent the past three decades as a world leader in the study of coronaviruses and now his research is aiding in the fight against COVID-19. Baric’s research pioneered COVID-19 treatments, including the drugs remdesivir and molnupiravir, and tested the efficacy and safety of vaccines to prevent the disease. His research group also helped to develop life-saving therapeutic antibody treatments and vaccines that prevent COVID-19 infections. Baric serves as the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his lab has made UNC a world leader in coronavirus research.
Science: Dr. Francis S. Collins
Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has pioneered genetics research and discovered genes associated with many diseases. Collins, who has served as the director of the NIH for the past 12 years, recently announced his departure from that role. He was appointed director in 2009 by President Barack Obama and was asked to remain in that post by presidents Trump and Biden. He is the only presidentially-appointed NIH director to serve under multiple administrations. Collins was instrumental in leading the international Human Genome Project, resulting in the 2003 publication of the finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. Working with both the Trump and Biden administrations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Collins helped launch several important initiatives to combat the disease, including a public-private partnership that developed a coordinated research strategy for prioritizing and speeding development of promising treatments and vaccines.
Science: Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., is a viral immunologist who earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014. She recently joined Harvard University where she is assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Corbett worked on a vaccine to protect people from COVID-19 almost from the beginning of the pandemic in 2019. It was reported that it took a mere 66 days for her team, which partnered with the biotechnology company Moderna, to produce a vaccine that entered its Phase 1 clinical trial. Her team’s research built on previous coronavirus studies which allowed for a quick turnaround. Reassuring skeptics of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine has been Corbett’s mission since it was authorized for human use. She has used her national prominence as a vaccine researcher to address lingering vaccine hesitancy, particularly in the Black community.
2021 Award Recipients:
Public Service: Dr. Dudley E. Flood
Dr. Dudley Flood, EdD., is a former educator and administrator in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction who was instrumental in desegregating North Carolina schools. During his time at NCDPI, Flood, along with Gene Causby, was tasked with helping local communities desegregate their schools. In the years following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed school segregation in the United States, Flood traveled to every corner of North Carolina to unite divided communities and work toward integrating public schools. Flood spent 21 years at NCDPI helping to create a state where all students could learn. His dedication to educational excellence and school desegregation helped to ensure an equitable educational experience for all North Carolina school children.
Fine Arts: David Holt
Award-winning musician and storyteller David Holt has spent more than 50 years collecting and performing the traditional music of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Holt’s interest in music began during his childhood in Texas. After graduating from college, Holt moved to western North Carolina to pursue his growing interest in traditional music. While collecting the traditional music of the mountains, Holt discovered folktales and true-life stories, which he began integrating into his concerts. In 1975, he founded and directed the Appalachian Music Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C. Since 1981, Holt has pursued a full-time career in entertainment, bringing the spirit and fun of old-time music to the concert stage. His many recordings have garnered numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards in 2002 in the Best Traditional Folk Recording category for Legacy, a retrospective of the life of Doc Watson. As the host of several acclaimed television series, including Folkways and David Holt’s State of Music, he has introduced traditional mountain music, stories, people and places to viewers across the country and around the world.
Public Service: Maria F. Spaulding
Maria F. Spaulding honed her reputation as a strong and progressive leader during nearly 40 years of combined work in state and local government. Spaulding is the former Deputy Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Assistant Secretary for the former Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. She also served as Executive Director of Wake County Human Services. As Assistant Secretary at Natural Resources and Community Development, she led the successful development of the North Carolina Zoo, the first natural habitat zoo in the U.S., and oversaw the creation of the State Parks system, including the development of four state parks. In the mid-1990s, Spaulding led the consolidation of Wake County’s numerous human services agencies, bringing multiple services together into a more consumer-friendly, one-stop outlet for county residents. In 2000, she co-founded The Healing Place, now Healing Transitions, a non-profit recovery and rehabilitation facility in Raleigh. Her passion for community service has left an indelible legacy for future generations of North Carolinians.
Literature: André Leon Talley
André Leon Talley cultivated his love of fashion and fashion magazines early in life and has lived by the mantra that style transcends race, class and time. Growing up in Durham, he nourished his style after discovering fashion magazines at the library as a teenager. Talley’s career began with a volunteer position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974 with then-Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. This internship led to jobs at Andy Warhol's Factory and Interview magazine. Talley worked at Women’s Wear Daily from 1975-80, eventually becoming its Paris bureau chief. He also was a contributor for W, The New York Times and other publications before reaching Vogue, where he was the Fashion News Director (1983-87) and then Creative Director (1988-95). Talley was recently awarded de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, which recognizes artists and writers, as well as others who have contributed significantly to the arts in France.
Literature: Dr. Timothy B. Tyson
Author, historian and teacher Timothy Tyson specializes in the issues of culture, religion and race associated with the Civil Rights Movement, both in his award-winning books and in the classroom where he teaches. His unflinching look at the past helps humanity to strive towards a better, more equitable future. He is best known for The Blood of Emmett Till, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Blood Done Sign My Name, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Southern Book Award for Nonfiction. Through his work, Tyson has endeavored to make history accessible and interesting not only to historians and scholars, but to a general audience. He has succeeded in creating lasting works that engage readers, deepen our understanding, spark public discussion, and help effect change.
Science: Dr. Blake S. Wilson
Dr. Blake Wilson is one of the principal developers of the cochlear implant, a device that has restored hearing to more than a million people around the world. He started his career as a research engineer at Research Triangle Institute in 1974, where he began work in 1977 on the seemingly impossible problem of restoring nearly normal hearing to deaf people through electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. He is responsible for the development of the “continuous interleaved sampling” (CIS) system used in modern cochlear implants. With CIS systems, implant recipients showed a dramatic improvement in recognizing and comprehending speech, making the implants vastly more effective than earlier versions, and allowing recipients to converse normally, talk on the phone, perform jobs that require hearing, and more. Wilson is the director and co-creator of the Duke Hearing Center and is an Adjunct or Consulting Professor in three departments at Duke University. He is also the chair of the Lancet Commission on Hearing Loss, which is working to identify ways to address the global burden of hearing loss.
The 2020-2021 awards will be presented Nov. 18 at an event to be held at the North Carolina Museum of Art. This event is generously sponsored by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, CBC/WRAL Community Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.