Covell & Brinley Awards

A Davis Tradition Since 1944

Judy Wydick Dedication

This website is inspired by and dedicated to Judy Wydick who labored tirelessly for years chairing the Steering Committee and assembling the historical reports you see under the "Past Winners" tab.   Judy's hard work resulted in a paperback book which she personally photocopied and distributed to anyone who asked.  After years of publishing that book, the Steering Committee decided to build this website so that information could be more broadly shared with the public and updated year after year.  Without Judy's efforts, this website would have not been possible and much of the award history would quite simply have been lost.  As a small testament of our gratitude to Judy, we have included the original book's Preface and Acknowledgements below so that web site visitors will always remember the comments she made as she assembled this important historical record.  Thanks Judy!

Preface and Acknowledgments by Judy Wydick

This book is about the two Davis awards presented to individuals who have contributed in major ways to the community—the C. A. Covell and the A. G. Brinley.  These awards, the oldest given by the community, have been around so long that their history—at least that of the Covell—had become somewhat cloudy, and I wanted to make it less so.

I never intended to put much effort into this project.  I was about to complete eight years as chair of the steering committee that handles these awards.  Knowing how little I knew initially about the background of the process, I thought having a brief writeup about it would help my successors.

So that December I decided to go through the files to understand better how the community awards evolved.  As tends to happen as the weeks passed, the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  

The current files for the Community Awards reside in a 12" x 15" box.  They have, since 1976, been kept in such a box by Margaret “Peggy” Hoyt, who was asked to be in charge of the process that year.  Previous to that time—for the first 32 years—the awards had been handled entirely by the Davis Chamber of Commerce, and it is highly likely (I realize now) that most of the materials relating to the awards during that early period were retained by the Chamber, with those in charge of the awards having perhaps only a binder containing essentials.

Therefore, most of the early information about the awards was missing.  The Citizen of the Year Award (the Covell) has been presented for 68 years—since 1944.  Yet all that remained from the first 20 years were a 1959 letter from Chairman Ed Markham to his selection committee; two yellowed 1962 newpaper articles in which Markham gave a bit of history about the award and requested nominations; and a 1963 article requesting nominations.  Files from the next few years contained a few notes about procedure—starting in 1964 with Chairman Don Derbeyshire’s typed news releases and reports to the Davis Chamber of Commerce describing the process and his committee.  

Not until 1970 did materials exist in the folders to tell why the Citizen of the Year was selected, why s/he was deemed worthy—rather than just information on the process of selecting.  I later discovered that the why information had regularly been included in the newspaper reports of the event, but they had not been saved.  Those who knew the recipients did not need the information.  But most in that generation are now gone; and those of us relatively new to Davis are clueless.

Maybe things changed at this point because the highly-talented Chris Blanchard became the chair.  Perhaps she recognized the importance of saving such information.  Or maybe Peggy Hoyt retrieved what she could.  Whatever the reason, that is when our records began.

Except in 1974, when there were no awards.  The next year the Chamber appointed as chair Roger Gambates, and his detailed report remains.  And thank goodness longtime chair Hoyt, who followed him in 1976, saved copies of most of the materials she created over the 26 years that she was in charge of the process.

The files themselves have evolved over recent years.  When Hoyt was preparing to retire as chair of the awards, she talked with Ruth Asmundson—who had not only received the Covell Award herself (‘89), but was the current Davis mayor.  Chamber member Deborah Dunham was interested in becoming the new chair.  But Asmundson wanted to learn the background, so Hoyt gave her the files that she had accumulated.  Asmundson organized them in keeping with her affinity for putting things in order.  In addition, she compiled an Excel list of all the people who had participated on a Selection Committee, starting in 1976 when Hoyt had begun keeping such records. 

Also, recognizing how big the job had become over the years, Asmundson asked several people to serve as a steering committee to make the job less onerous for the chair.  In the end, she asked me to chair the committee, and the Steering Committee voted on it in February.

When Ruth brought me the file box in 2004, it was clear that a lawyer (Hoyt) had been involved (and Ruth was married to one as well).  The file folders—and many of the notes—were legal sized, stored in a letter-sized container, curving their way through the box.  

Ah, those lawyers.  Being married to one, I know only too well how they were trained to use over-sized materials in a regular-sized world; and when the two meet, it isn’t pleasant.  So of course one lost weekend, I replaced the files with normal-sized folders, trimming or folding documents as necessary, eliminating many duplicates.  Little did I know that this revised set of files would later come in very handy.

In any case, in December 2011, anticipating that I would be turning over the position, I put together about 30 pages of information from the files, including five pages on an overview of the process.  But the gap before the 1970s was huge and—until 1975—sparse.  If this were truly to be an overview, obviously much more research was needed.

Having worked on the history of University Farm Circle, I had made some early-Davis contacts.  Elaine Perry Revell, daughter of UFC president Helen Perry (Covell ‘49), gave me more information about her mother.  Elaine also described what it was like when the the award was presented during the 4th of July festivities at Central Park, before the days of the giant fireworks in Community Park.

Nancy Whitcombe Roe (Covell ‘87), who filled me in on her father Harry Whitcombe (‘61), connnected me with Barbara and Ed Symens, who not only had a good picture of his father Percy Symens (‘59), but also the article on Vern Ihrig (‘60).  Nancy also connected me with the Truffini daughters, Phoebe and Georgia.  Ah, such excitement!
But a great deal of information was still missing.  Roger Gambatese in 1975 mentioned giving the nomination letters to Chamber Manager Derald Gibson, which is why I suspect they had all been placed in the Chamber’s archives.

Kemble Pope, current executive director of the Davis Chamber, thought he might be able to find the old files.  Those before 1970 weren’t at the Chamber office, but something nearly as good was:  on the meeting room wall were pictures of Covell Award winners who had served as Chamber president, e.g., Ben Madson (Covell ‘52), Ed Markham (‘55), Joe Truffini (‘58), Harry Whitcombe (‘61), and Herb Rourke (‘66).  Later in the Chamber’s storage unit we found some pictures going back to the ‘70s, including the installation of the Graus (‘78) and Don Kessler (Brinley, ‘78).  But the early files are still missing.

Then I stopped at Davis’s Hattie Weber Museum—to discover that in recent years the directors have filed information about early citizens under family names.  Executive Director Dennis Dingemans was very helpful.  There I found several pictures and even newspaper articles about early Covell recipients Percy Symens (‘59) and Kathryn Chiles (‘63).

Joann Larkey had some good information on the Covell Award, but her book, Davisville ‘68—the History and Heritage of the City of Davis, focuses more on the development of the city itself and the pioneer families.
Another source that proved invaluable was Those Who Make Memories, produced by the Davis Enterprise in 1998 to celebrate their centennial year.  There I found information on C.A. Maghetti (‘46), Dick Barlow (‘48), L.N. Irwin (‘51), John Brinley (‘68), the Bauers (‘76), Chris Blanchard (‘71), Dick Brunelle (Brinley‘80), Ed Roessler (‘57), Joe Truffini (‘58), Ernie Hartz (‘67) and John Jones (Brinley‘75).

UC Davis and Davis Wiki have digital files on the internet of UCD faculty and staff like Ben Madsen (‘52), Vern Hickey (‘53), Ed Roessler (‘57), and Price Gittinger (‘62).  And the UCD Alumni Association has most of the early campus yearbooks, which included pictures of winners like Ben Moses (‘47), Ben Madsen (‘52), Vern Hickey (‘53), Ed Roessler (‘57) and Price Gittinger (‘62).  But it was still difficult finding why many were selected when they were.  (Incidentally, in my early research, I did not record where I found all my information, and later I often could not find the source.  I apologize for that, but the project simply grew!)

All this time I had been avoiding going to UC Davis’s Shields Library to look at their copies of The Davis Enterprise on microfilm.  After becoming quite nauseated reading 15 years of the Enterprise (1910–25) for my Farm Circle book (and having to copy all the quotes by hand), I’d sworn never to do that again.  But with only 10 individuals on whom I had nothing, I finally gave in.   It simply didn’t seem right not to cover everyone.  To my delight, using the microfilm machine not only is not as stomach-turning as six years ago, but it is now possible to scan sections to a computer and ostensibly send the scanned pages to my computer at home.  

“Ostensibly,” I say, because none of the 30 documents I sent on the first day arrived.  So upon my return the next day, after checking with my husband to see if three I resent had arrived on his UCD-connected email (they did), I then sent them all again, slowly as instructed, very slowly, one at a time, to both his and my email address, only to find upon returning home that we had each received 30 copies of one document.  Miserable equipment!  (And two weeks later, the same scanned duplicates poured into both our computers—nearly 1,000 to my husband’s.  A call to the library stopped that, but it was more than a little disconcerting.  This is probably due to my not signing out properly or not erasing my materials, but that is beside the point!)

Fortunately, I’d also transferred them all to a flash drive, most of which arrived intact, so I was able to fill in many of the missing and incomplete years before 1975.  

I also looked for information on some of the people whom I’d covered from other sources, usually finding even more.  (And, of course, in the process I noticed all kinds of information about Davis over the years.  It is all too easy to get off track in a library.)  

I now have something for each year of the awards and have put most of that information in the files.  
The Enterprise also had taken many pictures, but the quality of those pictures in the early years—as captured on microfilm—was poor.  Still, I often included poor-quality pictures in this review of the awards because they hinted at what had taken place.  Perhaps the one I would have wished the most to be clear is of ten of those early winners (see previous page).  It would have been priceless.  Now it is helpful only to see how many of the previous winners came to the 1957 ceremony.

I have also learned that some of my original assumptions were incorrect.  For example, I thought that no awards were given in 1974 because the Chamber committee had waited too long to get started that year.  It was a much simpler reason.  Such points called for much rewriting.  

I must make clear that in no way did I try to write in detail about each person.  Nor is the list of their accomplishments complete.

For example, I did not try to find every Enterprise article on the award ceremony from the early years.  Where I had already acquired information on an award winner from the UC or Yolo County obituaries, or the Enterprise’s “Memories,” that seemed adequate in most cases.  

This has meant that information acquired only from the Enterprise post-event articles is limited to the reasons why the recipient received the award, i.e., information on the individuals’ activities only until the date of the award.  On the other hand, when the information came from later on in (or at the end of) their lives, I wasn’t able to ascertain for the most part what had happened only before each received the award.  

Therefore, when a writeup says that someone is “currently” involved in a particular activity (and the person is obviously dead), the chances are that the information is from the Enterprise or Democrat that came out immediately after the award was presented.

I also did not look up information in the Davis Daily Democrat archives, though the Woodland paper also reported on the awards from 1972–1986 (some articles of which survive in our files).  Their reporter might well have included information that the Enterprise reporter did not, but I simply could not devote the time to this project to check them all.

Though many people have assisted in this project (many mentioned here), I want to recognize and thank my three proofers.  Judy Gabor (‘02 Brinley) offered to go through everything and did, and my husband Richard Wydick, who had much better things to do, did it anyway.  Between them they caught not only the usual typos and misspellings, but also duplications or points that did not agree from one place to the other. 

Then, very unexpectedly after I was “finished,” Davis historian John Lofland looked at the manuscript cold and provided excellent advice throughout.  He expertly spotted the kinds of omissions we didn’t see, being too familiar with the subject.  (Then again, because I refuse to ask the first two for a final proofing, I may have made new errors.  I regret that.)  He later also produced pictures of the only recipient whose picture I’d been unable to find—Flora McDonald (‘45)—and of the trophy that year, the first one.

One reason some points that I recorded did not agree is that often articles used as sources did not agree, especially in the early years.  For example, when Ben Madsen came to Davis in 1914, he spelled his last name with an e.  By the 1950s it is spelled Madson.  He probably decided it was easier to change the spelling than to correct people.  

Therefore, should any readers notice outright errors, please contact the chair of the Community Awards Steering Committee to make the corrections.  Further, if family members have good pictures of any of the awardees, please send a scanned copy to either the Awards chair or the Hattie Weber Museum, which will have a copy of this book.
 I did not always double-check everything written or told to me, but assume it is generally correct.  This was assembled primarily for the benefit of the Awards chair and steering committee so they can understand the process through the years.  Anyone can get a relatively quick concept of how things unfolded over the years, or a snapshot of a winner, then check the files, the original source or other sources if other information is needed.

Oh yes, my husband suggested two names for this book:  Citizens Who Cared (that’s an inside joke for people from Davis) and Ask Not What Your City Can Do for You . . .  I was tempted.