Dopp’s 30 years of passionate commitment to land conservation and historic preservation is recognized with the 2014 Hildene Award.

Dopp Honored with Hildene Award

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Thursday August 21, 2014

Family, friends and colleagues gathered in late July for a celebratory luncheon at Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, to honor Sarah Dopp of South Burlington and Paul Bruhn of Burlington, the 2014 recipients of the Hildene Award. The award is given annually to Vermonters who have made extraordinary contributions in the areas of land conservation and/or historic preservation. The Hildene Award includes a $10,000 prize that is given to a project of the recipients’ choosing, which was announced at the event.

Collectively Bruhn and Dopp have dedicated more than 60 years to conserving the land and preserving the historic structures of Vermont, Bruhn with his nationally recognized leadership of the Preservation Trust of Vermont and Dopp with her dedication to grassroots conservation and preservation initiatives in Chittenden County. Both clearly fit the profile of past Hildene Award honorees, Senator James Jeffords, Darby Bradley, Linda Ramsdell and Andrea Rogers. The twin pillars of the award, land conservation and historic preservation, are intrinsically related to Hildene’s 412 acres and 14 historic buildings. Those who have been and will be honored embody Hildene’s mission of Values into Action. 

Sarah Dopp has been a leader in land conservation and historic preservation for more than three decades. She founded the South Burlington Land Trust (SBLT) in 2003 and has served as its president since then. During her tenure, the organization led a successful campaign to save the 100 acre Wheeler Park Natural Area from becoming the site for a new police station. This campaign resulted in the organization receiving the first ever Environmental Courage in Leadership Award by ECHO and the Burlington Free Press. 

As an advocate for historic preservation Dopp’s imprint can be found on diverse projects. In her role as church historian for First Baptist Church of Burlington and with dedication that spanned nearly two decades, she secured two grants and led fundraising efforts that collectively account for the restoration of the church’s exterior, repairs to its steeple and restoration of the pipe organ. In the 1980’s with similar vigor and as a member of the “Save the Tower” Citizen’s Committee, Dopp helped raise the funds and organize events that led to the repair and preservation of the Ethan Allen Tower in Burlington. This passion for preservation was ever present as well during her 45-year tenure with Fletcher Allen Healthcare where she participated in projects that documented its history. She then used this history to create an exhibit that tells the hospital’s story. It is clear that while preserving these special places, Dopp has also been telling their stories. Over the years, she has continued to share her experience and enthusiasm for preservation by serving in leadership positions on several local and statewide historical organizations. 

During his introduction, Executive Director Mark Hudson of the Vermont Historical Society, highlighted honoree Dopp’s decades of service to the Historical Society’s board, her founding of the SBLT and her preservation work with First Baptist Church of Burlington.  He said of Dopp, “Sarah showed me what it means to lead by example. In all her endeavors, she selflessly gives her time, talent and treasures … she doesn’t simply do things – she lives them!” 

Dopp expressed her surprise at receiving this award but after reflecting on it concluded that, “This may be the whole “point” of the award in my case: to recognize even the modest efforts of a small player. There are lots of them across Vermont, making important contributions to our communal quality of life and the future of our state. I am happy that I can represent them today.”  

Peter Brink, past Senior Vice-President for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and current Chair of the Board of the Preservation Trust of Vermont Trust, introduced Paul Bruhn.  He noted that Bruhn, not only founded the Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV), but he has also successfully led the organization for more than three decades. During this time PTV has been the catalyst for much of Vermont’s success in keeping village centers and downtowns intact and vital, while also providing community preservationists with a place to turn for advice and support. 

When presenting the awards to Dopp and Bruhn, Ken Moriarty, chairman of the Hildene Board of Trustees, noted that, “Integrity, perseverance, and civic responsibility are timeless values bequeathed to us by Abraham Lincoln … These values are the lodestar to this day, guiding us in all we do here at Hildene.”

Given annually, the Hildene Award has two key components: In addition to honoring the recipient’s achievement, the award includes a $10,000 prize which the recipient(s) then gives to a deserving non-profit project in Vermont of his/her choosing and for which $10,000 would make a real difference. After receiving their awards, Bruhn and Dopp announced that they would direct the $10,000 prize to Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, Vermont. 

“The Preservation Trust of Vermont has been working for several years with the people in Proctor, to preserve the Vermont Marble Museum site and to establish a non-profit which will carry out the mission of preserving the heritage of marble in Vermont. For me it was also a perfect recipient for our Hildene award money. My maternal ancestors were from Proctor, my Mother and Aunt grew up there and I spent many happy days there as a child and teenager. The village is like no other in the state and it exerted an enormous influence on me. My love of Vermont history, antiques, and my family heritage was all born in that house on the Otter Creek which my Great Grandfather built after the Civil War. The Hildene award provided me with the perfect vehicle for acknowledging my love of that special place,” said Dopp.

The event concluded at the Hildene Award trailhead that follows one of the most scenic ridges on the 412 acre estate.  After recognizing the hard work of trustees and staff, Hildene Executive Director Seth Bongartz unveiled trail cairn markers for Dopp and Bruhn, adding to those honored in years past.  

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