In 1981, attorney and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan gave the Commencement Address at the University of Pennsylvania. His daughter Vicky was in the graduating class and Mr. Jordan was awarded an honorary degree by Penn president Sheldon Hackney.
“It is very fitting that I should be here today,” Mr. Jordan said on Monday evening to a gathered audience at the Federated Church in Edgartown, shortly before he honored Mr. Hackney with the Martha’s Vineyard Medal, given during the Martha’s Vineyard Museum annual meeting.
The medal is awarded each year by the museum to members of the Island community as a way of recognizing outstanding contributions to the Vineyard way of life. Previous recipients are Ray Ellis, David McCullough, the Athearn family, Della Hardman, John Walter, Tom Hale, Tobias Vanderhoop, Arthur Railton, Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks, Marian Halperin, Francine Kelly, Bailey Norton Jr. and Hugh Knipmeyer.
This year’s honorees were Mr. Hackney, Olga Hirshhorn, and the Murphy family — Stan, Polly, Barbara and Chris. Stan and Polly received the award posthumously.
The Murphys, introduced by museum education director Nancy Cole, “epitomize people who love and loved this Island, helping to preserve what we all love.” Stan and Polly moved to the Island after World War II. Polly was part of the inaugural West Tisbury Conservation Commission and Stan was a prominent artist, responsible for the murals in the Tisbury Town Hall, among other places.
Chris was born and raised on the Island. He is a volunteer captain of the catboat Vanity and a member of the Chilmark Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as a former chair of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Barbara taught Spanish at the regional high school for more than 30 years, devoting her time in retirement to volunteer causes. She has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer since 2005 and was named Volunteer of the Year by Cape and Island Elder Services earlier this year.
Dr. Gerald Yukevich, chairman of the board for the Vineyard Playhouse, introduced Olga Hirshhorn, a longtime supporter of the Vineyard arts. Mrs. Hirshhorn founded the Chicken Alley Art Show, which benefits Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
“It’s hard to imagine the Vineyard arts scene without imagining Olga in the middle of it,” Dr. Yukevich said.
Mrs. Hirshhorn, 93, drew laughs from the audience when she stepped to the podium to accept the award only to acknowledge that her hearing aids were broken and she hadn’t heard Dr. Yukevich’s introduction.
“But I can tell by your applause and your smiles that you said some very nice things,” she said.
Mr. Hackney, Chair Emeritus of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, received the final award of the night.
“In his retirement, Sheldon chose a quiet life in service to his adopted community,” Mr. Jordan said. “He is devoted to the Vineyard and to the museum...this has been Sheldon’s legacy in his later years.”
Mr. Hackney’s son Fain read aloud from a thank you speech prepared by his father, as Mr. Hackney, though in attendance, was ill and unable to take the stage.
“We need to understand who we are to become who we want to be,” the younger Mr. Hackney read. “History is the future — onward!”