Virginia Kunz Award 2020

RCHS Virginia B. Kunz Award for 2020

The 2020 Virginia B. Kunz Award for excellence in articles published in Ramsey County History magazine over a two year period was recently awarded. Ramsey County Historical Society (RCHS) recognized not one but three articles as the best local histories in the Society’s Ramsey County History magazine for 2018 and 2019 at the RCHS Publications Recognition Night on November 17, 2020.
2020 Kunz Award Press Release
Youtube video of Award Event & Trivia Night with RCHS and Historic Saint Paul, Nov. 17, 2020

Featured image: The 2020 Virginia B. Kunz Award winners. Clockwise from top left: Teresa Swanson, Sydney Beane, William Beane, Jeremiah E. Ellis, Krista Finstad Hanson, Kitty Gogins.


The Virginia B. Kunz Award

The Virginia B. Kunz Award is made possible by generous memorial gifts to the Ramsey County Historical Society in honor of Virginia Kunz, the organization’s first editor of the award-winning, quarterly Ramsey County History magazine. Kunz served as editor for over forty years. Following her unexpected death in January 2006, the Society established the award, which is presented every two years, to the author or authors of the best article published in the magazine that meets three criteria:

  • The article has a new, more complete, or corrective contribution to material dealing with the history of Ramsey County, Minnesota;
  • The article has an effective balance of appropriate historical research, documentation, and accessibility to a broad audience of readers;
  • The article is written in an engaging style and includes appropriate visual materials such as photos, maps, diagrams, or other illustrations that encourage the reading of local or regional history.

The winner receives a recognition plaque and a monetary award for exceptional historical research and writing.

To contribute to the Virginia B. Kunz Memorial Fund in support of RCHS authors, donate here.

2020 Virginia B. Kunz Award Judges

A panel of three independent, community judges review all eligible articles and select the winner. This year’s judges include Readus Fletcher II, Clarence White, and Sue Zumberge.

Readus Fletcher II was born in 1950. He was raised in the St. Paul Rondo community, is a proud graduate of Saint Paul Public Schools, and attended Minnesota State College at Moorhead. After working primarily for the City of Saint Paul for forty years, he retired in 2017. Working on behalf of citizens and businesses and focused on policy and administration of economic development and workforce preparation programs, Fletcher handled federal legislation and grant funding and was instrumental in providing work and economic opportunities for thousands of residents and business owners. Fletcher also took advantage of the availability of cable television access in the late 1980s, training himself on the use of equipment and soon establishing and producing an alternative news and commentary program, Tellstar News, which was nationally syndicated until the early 1990s. He is the recipient of the University of St. Thomas School of Law Iustitia et Lex award, former chairman of the Saint Paul College General Advisory Committee, past chairman of Minnesota Minority Suppliers Development Council, member of the Metropolitan Council Central Corridor LRT Community Advisory Committee, and member of Saint Paul NAACP.

Clarence White is a writer, editor, typewriter poet, curator, arts administrator, and a former bookseller at the Hungry Mind Bookstore. His publications are included in several editions of the Saint Paul Almanac, Suisun Valley Review and Public Art Review, and Martin Lake Journal, and his essay “Smart Enough for Ford” appears in the anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. He works in essay when he believes that conversation is possible and in poetry when he is less hopeful. He is the co-curator of the 2016 and 2017 Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts Reading Series and Silverwood Park’s 2014 Art on Foot. He is a past Givens Foundation Retreat Fellow and was a finalist for’s flash fiction contest miniStories. He is the associate director of the East Side Freedom Library and lives in Saint Paul.

Sue Zumberge is a Midwesterner born and raised with a twenty-year stint in Montana before moving to Minnesota. She has spent most of her life reading and the best part of her adult life selling books. She’s a proud St Paul resident since 2008 and owner of Subtext Books downtown.

2020 Virginia B. Kunz Award Winners

Left to right: Teresa Swanson, Sydney Beane, William Beane.

Charles and Elaine Eastman: Their Years in St. Paul, 1893–1898, authors Teresa Swanson, Sydney Beane, and William Beane

Teresa Swanson is a public historian and former manager of the Ramsey County Historical Society’s Gibbs Farm. During her tenure there, the society developed its Dakota interpretation to complement the existing Gibbs family interpretation at the farm.

Sydney and William Beane are brothers who were born and raised on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Their Dakota ancestors were exiled from Minnesota after the 1862 Dakota War. They are descendants of notable early Minnesota historical figures, including Cloud Man, Seth Eastman, Jean-Baptiste Faribault, Robert Dickson, Jonathan Beane, and Mrs. Nancy McClure Faribault Huggins.

Sydney Beane is a retired college educator, documentary filmmaker, and community activist. He wrote and produced the documentary film Native Nations: Standing Together for Civil Rights, shown nationally on ABC, NBC, and the Hallmark Channel. His current film, Ohiyesa – The Soul of an Indian, is showing on public television nationally.

William Beane is an artist, tribal historian, and musician. He was instrumental in creating a translation project called “Dakota Letters,” which received national recognition. It is based on the letters written by Dakota male prisoners held at Davenport, Iowa, from 1863 to 1866. He is developing “Dakota Archives” with the Moody County Museum in South Dakota. He serves as researcher and consultant on numerous published books.

Left to right: Krista Finstad Hanson, Kitty Gogins

One Hundred Years Serving New Americans: The Centennial of the International Institute, author Krista Finstad Hanson and Growing Up in Ramsey County: With a Dash of Foreign Spice, author Kitty Gogins

Krista Finstad Hanson is an English teacher, historian, and writer. She is a former instructor at the International Institute of Minnesota and the author of three books.

Kitty Gogins is the daughter of refugees. She was president of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Minnesota from 2011 until 2019 and has served on the Roseville Area School Board and the Equity Alliance MN Board. She is a business consultant providing strategic and project leadership for nonprofits and government entities and helping organizations envision and plan their future with an equity lens.

Jeremiah E. Ellis

St. Paul’s Distinct Leadership Tradition: A Century of the Sterling Club, author Jeremiah E. Ellis

Jeremiah E. Ellis’s great-grandparents owned Booker T. Barbecue Ribs on Rondo Avenue in St. Paul before its destruction to make way for Interstate 94. Ellis co-created the 2017 Cap Wigington History and Architecture Bike Tour to uplift local African American history. In 2018, he was selected as a delegate to the Fifth World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality hosted in Brazil, where he moderated a simultaneously translated panel on race, ethnicity, and the criminal justice system. Ellis serves as secretary of the board for the African American Interpretive Center of Minnesota, which is dedicated to sharing black Minnesota history through exhibitions and events. His research into St. Paul’s historic Black community, “St. Paul’s Distinct Leadership Tradition: A Century of The Sterling Club,” was published by the Ramsey County Historical Society last year. During the Sterling Club’s 2019 centennial celebration, Ellis presented on the research and the importance of telling one’s own story. He holds a master’s degree in public administration and a graduate certificate in strategic management. He parents his elementary-age son in St. Paul with his wife.

Virginia B. Kunz Award Winners 2006 – Present

Paul D. Nelson,  “Another Lost Neighborhood: The Life and Death of Central Park—A Small Part of the Past Illuminated.” Ramsey County History, Vol 39-3, Fall 2004

John W. Larson, “He was Mechanic Arts: Mechanic Arts High School—The Dietrich Lange Years, 1916-1939.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 41-2, Summer 2006

Steven C. Trimble, “If It Can Be Manufactured from the Wood, We Can Make It: A History of the Villaume Family and the Company They Built.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 41-4, Winter 2007

Barry L. and Joan Miller Cotter, “Pith, Heart, and Nerve: Truman M. Smith—From Banker to Market Gardner.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 44-2, Summer 2009

Frank M. White, “They Played for the Love of the Game: Adding to the Legacy of Minnesota Black Baseball.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 45-1, Spring 2010

Steven C. Trimble, “Hands-On Historian: Ethel Hall Stewart and Preserving the Gibbs Farm.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 47-3, Fall 2012

Donald L. Empson, “A Grand Topographical Feature: The History of the Mississippi River Boulevard.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 49-2, Summer 2014

Marc J Manderscheid, “Homes vs. Factories: The 95-Year Battle over the Future of the South Highland Park Neighborhood.” Ramsey County History, Vol. 51-2, Summer 2016