Geneva History Museum's Terry Emma Wins 2019 Wood Award

Geneva History Museum’s Terry Emma Wins 2019 Wood Award

Geneva History Museum Executive Director and Kane County Connects history column contributor Terry Emma has won Geneva’s top award for lifetime community service.

Emma is this year’s winner of the Wood Community Service award, presented each year by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce annual dinner to an individual who has made significant community contributions in the areas of business, education, youth involvement, civic organizations, art, recreation, charity or government.

The award is named in honor of Bill and Elise Wood, and Nell and Burton Wood — four individuals who have contributed to the growth and health of the city of Geneva.

According to a Chamber of Commerce news release, Emma has offered her volunteer services to Geneva School District, Geneva Community Chest, Geneva Lions Club, Women of the Moose #512 and the Geneva History Museum.

While a Geneva History Museum board member she was co-creator of Geneva Hotel tour/artifact sale event and of the Davy Jones Concert event. Both raising needed funds for the museum.

She was awarded the 2014 Geneva Masonic Lodge #139, “Citizen of the Year”.

Scott Lebin, chairman of the Geneva Chamber Board and fellow Geneva Lions Club member said Emma is the embodiment of community service.

“When you need to get something done, there are certain people you know you can go to,” he said. “Terry is one of those people. She is completely available for any project that needs to be completed, and she has a difficult time saying no.”

The Geneva History Museum has evolved since Emma took over leadership in 2011. Along with a professional and dedicated staff, she secured participation in the Museum Assessment Program, which resulted in a rebranding effort.

She has raised more than $200,000 in grants and donations as well as co-authored content to redesign the main gallery Geneva’s Story. These efforts and more have raised awareness and earned Congressman Randy Hultgren’s nomination for the 2015 National Medal of Museums and Libraries Award.

Emma’s sister, Maureen Radecki, said Emma is passionate about Geneva’s history and finding new ways to share its stories.

“Her abilities to question the status quo, visualize change, and manage events work hand in hand with her courage and determination when it comes to seeing projects through and getting things done,” she said.

Geneva History Board Member Mike Simon said Emma’s family has left a legacy.

“Both her mother and father’s contributions to the betterment of Geneva were enormous, and in many ways, this award is a thank you to them as well as to her,” he said. “She was brought up surrounded by parents who gave their talents to the city in many, many ways, and she is traveling the same road as them, knowing that the impact of her actions will be of benefit to future generations.”

Before taking over as history museum executive director, Emma was the student activities director for Geneva High School.

Geneva High School Principal Tom Rogers credits Emma with making a real difference in student activities.

“She was a student magnet,” he said. “Our activities program has reached new heights due to the new ideas and initiatives she created while at Geneva High School. One example is that instead of homecoming involving just GHS students, the entire community now celebrates.”

Emma is a native Genevan and the youngest of six children. She is a graduate of Geneva High School and Augustana College majoring in elementary education.

A video at highlighting Emma’s accomplishments that was shown prior to the announcement can be seen through this link.


Previous Wood Award Winners

  • William C. Wood, 1985
  • Robert Joshel, 1986
  • Gloria McCleary, 1987
  • Allen Mead, 1988
  • Arthur Nelson, 1989
  • Roger Morris, 1990
  • Weldon Johnson, 1991
  • Jamie Daniel, 1992
  • Mack Olson, 1993
  • Rae Johns Ellsworth, 1994
  • Robert Krell, 1995
  • Richard Lindholm, 1996
  • Dave Rogers, 1997
  • Bruce & Carolyn Simpson, 1998
  • James T. Riley, 1999
  • Alden L. Odt, 2000
  • Sharon L. Jones, 2001
  • Steve Lillie, 2002
  • John Anderson, 2003
  • Mary Bencini, 2004
  • Mary Kay Brown, 2005
  • Stephen Persinger, 2006
  • Dr. Rodney B. Nelson, III, 2007
  • Scott Lebin, 2008
  • Sam & Carolyn Hill, 2009
  • Kent Shodeen, 2010
  • Joe Stanton, 2011
  • Tim Vetang, 2012
  • Mary Stith, 2013
  • Jean Gaines, 2013
  • Mary O’Brien, 2014
  • Gordon Hard, 2015
  • Michael Simon, 2016
  • Dean Kilburg, 2017
  • Cheryl “Cookie” Olson, 2018

SOURCE: Geneva Chamber of Commerce news release