Frank AinsleyMarshall Bowen, chair of the Henry H. Douglas Award (left), congratulates Frank Ainsley, the recipient of the 2003 Award (photo courtesy of Artimus Keiffer)

The recipient of the Douglas Award for 2003 is W. Frank Ainsley, Professor of Geography at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A native of North Carolina, Frank holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, master’s degrees in both Divinity and Geography, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Frank has an enviable record of scholarship and is well connected in the scholarly world. Some of his publications deal with urban geography and the geography of religion, but most focus on rural settlement and vernacular architecture. These include numerous articles on ethnic European farm colonies, a paper on housebarns in western North Carolina, and another on the evolution of chattel houses in Barbados. In addition to membership in the Pioneer America Society, he belongs to several professional Geography organizations, the Vernacular Architecture Forum, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Frank’s success as a scholar has carried over to success in the classroom. He has developed undergraduate courses in Rural Planning and Historic Preservation Planning, as well as a course on the Historical Geography of the United States. At the graduate level, he teaches a course titled Reading the American Landscape, and has supervised theses that have examined historic preservation processes in both North Carolina and New Jersey. He is passionate about sharing his enthusiasm for material culture studies with young people just beginning their academic lives and has brought many of his students to Society meetings. No one should be surprised that he has already been recognized by his own university for teaching excellence, or that he was a finalist for a national teaching award.

In addition to his scholarly work and teaching excellence, Frank has made marvelous contributions to the Society. He has organized three annual meetings: Edenton, North Carolina in 1985, Wilmington, North Carolina in 1998, and the recent 2003 gathering in Bridgetown, Barbados, where he conducted three stimulating field trips. The people who have worked with him on these events agree that when it comes to thoroughness, attention to detail, responsiveness to individual needs, and the ability to make last-minute changes without missing a beat, there is no one better than Frank Ainsley. From 1986-1988, he served on the Society’s Board of Directors, and since 1989, he has also been the Society’s Secretary-Treasurer, a position that involves infinitely more than preparing minutes and collecting dues. Indeed, to paraphrase what one letter of nomination for this award said, Frank is the glue that has held the Society together through thick and thin, and is a major reason why the organization is doing so well today, from both a financial and an intellectual standpoint.

It gives me great pleasure, for both personal and professional reasons, to join with the other members of the Douglas Award committee, Tracey Sculle and Floyd Mansberger, as well as the Society as a whole, in honoring Frank for the important contributions that he has made in all aspects of the Society’s mission. He is a highly respected colleague, a friend, and a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Congratulations!

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