Marjorie Driver, a retired educator and historian who first came to the Marianas in the 1950s, is this year’s awardee of the Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities for the 2013 Governor’s Humanities Award held Thursday at the Pacific Islands Club Saipan.
The former principal of St. John’s and professor at University of Guam played a key role in locating and acquiring copies of Spanish government documents relating to the Mariana Islands from archives in Spain, Mexico, and the Philippines.
Driver is also a founding member of the Micronesian Area Research Center. The Spanish documents she acquired now forms the basis of MARC’s Spanish Documents Collection, which she herself administered as curator for over 30 years.
Aside from her work as an administrator and educator, Driver has also published dozens of articles and books presenting English language translations of historical materials concerning the lengthy Spanish presence in the Mariana Islands, including some that shed light on the history and culture of the CNMI.
“Professor Driver’s work has provided a foundation of the Spanish history of the Mariana Islands and Micronesia that will serve as a future resource for future historians for 50 years to come. People like me, long after I’m gone, will be using Marjorie’s work as their first priority when doing research in the Marianas. So this accolade is long overdue,” said local historian Don Farrell.
Driver thanked the Northern Marianas Humanities Council for the award and encouraged local historians to continue their excellent work of telling the stories of the past for future generations to learn from.
Driver said she co-founded MARC in an effort to preserve the written history of the Marianas, which until recently was dominated by oral history.
“I was here with the class of 1955 from a high school in Guam and when I spoke to them, I told them they were the ones responsible for my most recent change of careers. Because when I was teaching world history to those children, they used to tell me when I asked about their Spanish background, ‘Mrs. Driver my grandmother told me all of these things.’ But what they were really saying is we didn’t have all these materials available here on island. It was still oral history and that’s one of the reasons we established MARC.”
Also honored Thursday night were Kurt Barnes, research and publication in the humanities; Rosanna P. Barcinas, preservation of Marianas history; and Donald P. Mendiola and Bryan Manabat, outstanding humanities teachers.
Barnes is the author of Sports Legends of Micronesia: 1966-2012. The 216-page book involved extensive archival research and interviews with people in the CNMI, Guam, Chuuk, Kosrae, Palau, and Pohnpei. It included personal accounts of memorable games and athletes as well as an overview of athletic cultures of the various island groups.
Barnes, a retired education and sports coach, said that publishing the book was a lifelong dream and hopefully makes up for the lack of written material about sports in the region.
“Everything is oral in sports and it’s handed down from generation to generation. That’s why it’s important to write it down and thank goodness to Francisco ‘Tanko’ Palacios. He’s got statistics that go back 50 years that involved baseball and softball. In fact, when I was in Palau I talked to all the great softball players and I asked them for their bios and they said ‘check with Tanko.’”
Barcinas, meanwhile, co-chaired the steering committee for the 1st Marianas History Conference on Saipan in June 2012 and played a key role in the 2nd Marianas History Conference in Guam last August.
She is currently a consultant on historic preservation and is engaged in several ongoing projects in the CNMI and Guam. Barcinas also worked for 17 years as program officer for the Guam Preservation Trust.
“I was actually shocked and even teared up because I’m so flattered to get this acknowledgement from the community here in the Northern Marianas,” said Barcinas. “The work the Historic Preservation Society and the Humanities is just remarkable for what little financial resources they get.”
Manabat got the nod for Outstanding Teacher of the Year for planning and administering a very successful summer educational program at the San Isidro Learning Center. The program targeted elementary, junior high, and high school students over the three-month summer break.
Manabat, who has served as Motheread coordinator since 2007, shared his award with his family in the Philippines and here in his adopted home of Saipan.
Mendiola, a Chamorro bilingual teacher at Hopwood Junior High School, is widely recognized as the expert in many aspects of the local culture, including language arts and traditional healing. He draws upon his extensive knowledge and experience to promote the use of and fluency in the Chamorro language in the classroom.
Mendiola is also a skillful weaver who uses traditional materials such as coconut and pandanus leaves to fashion beautiful and functional mats, hats, baskets, and purses.
Mendiola wasn’t present during the awards presentation. Hopwood principal Jonas Barcinas accepted the award on his behalf.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos praised the Humanities Council’s efforts to preserve the islands’ culture and way of life.
“Keep the ways of our fellow Chamorros and Carolinians alive. These efforts are of utmost important to our people and our islands as it will ensure our children and the next generation will all be able to appreciate and respect our ways and carry them on to the future,” Inos said.