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In 2008, The Ossabaw Island Foundation established The Eleanor “Sandy” West Ossabaw Fellowship to recognize one person for his or her professional activity relating to, or inspired by, Ossabaw Island. Fellows may be professionals in any educational, scientific, or artistic field. The Fellow honor is awarded when someone is deserving, not annually.

Each Ossabaw Fellow will receive an honorarium and a one-week residency on Ossabaw Island.

The Fellowship was established to honor Ossabaw Island’s longest known resident and supporter, Eleanor “Sandy” West, who established and operated the Ossabaw Island Project and the Genesis Project on Ossabaw Island in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She was instrumental in her family’s decision to make a bargain sale of Ossabaw Island to the State of Georgia in 1978 for use as the state’s first Heritage Preserve. West has lived on the island full time since 1986.

In January 2009 the first Ossabaw Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Allison Dorsey, Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of Black Studies at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

Dorsey’s most recent paper is “’The great cry of our people is Land!’: Black Settlement and Community Development on Ossabaw Island, 1865-1900,” published in early 2008. In the paper, Dorsey discusses her research on the lives of African American freedmen on Ossabaw Island and in coastal Georgia in the decades after emancipation.

Dorsey was a presenter at the 2008 African-American history symposium sponsored by The Ossabaw Island Education Alliance. She is continuing her research on the freedmen of Ossabaw Island. Watch an 8-minute video of Dorsey’s presentation at the symposium.

Dr. Steven Darsey of Atlanta has been selected by The Ossabaw Island Foundation as the 2010 recipient of the Eleanor “Sandy” West Ossabaw Fellowship.

Darsey is a conductor and a composer of over 100 musical works for various combinations of voices and instruments. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music. Since 1986 Darsey has served as Director of Music for Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he leads a comprehensive parish music program. He also serves as Artistic Director for Meridian Herald, a nonprofit organization supporting worship and culture.

His most recent composition is The Marshes of Glynn, an oratorio for symphonic orchestra, soloists and large chorus, based on the seminal poem by 19th century Georgia poet Sidney Lanier. Darsey, a Georgia native, has researched and worked on this composition for over twenty years. In his musical setting, Darsey explores the profound cultural and theological insights Lanier drew from Georgia’s marshes and coastal environs.

In 2006 and 2009, Darsey spent time on Ossabaw Island as an artist in residence researching and composing The Marshes of Glynn. A performance reading of an earlier version was given at Glenn Church, March 2, 2008 with the Glenn Chancel Choir, the Meridian Chorale, soloists, piano and organ. In 2009 he completed the orchestration for the oratorio, and is exploring various opportunities for its orchestral premier.

In 2014 Armstrong History Professor Dr. Mark A. Finlay Honored Posthumously as Ossabaw Fellow.

At the time of his death in October of 2013, Dr. Finlay was completing research for a book on the environmental history of coastal Georgia, with emphasis on Ossabaw Island, Ga. As part of that research, he interviewed members of Ossabaw Island’s first Genesis Project at a 40-year reunion in 2010. Just a month before he died, he traveled to Plains, Ga. to interview former President Jimmy Carter as part of his Ossabaw research.

“What made Mark so exceptional is that he brought a brilliant mind for research, an excellent writing ability and a remarkable gift for telling an engaging story,” said Paul Pressly, director of The Ossabaw Island Educational Alliance. “He was able to make the past real and meaningful to everyone -- scholars and schoolchildren, academics and amateurs -- and to make us all feel a little bit more connected to our history and to each other.”

Dr. Finlay’s work will serve as the centerpiece for an environmental history symposium being organized by the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance, scheduled for 2016. Dr. Finlay was enthusiastic about the upcoming symposium and served as co-chair of its planning committee at the time of his death.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Finlay earned respect as an exceptional scholar and gifted professor,” said Armstrong president Dr. Linda M. Bleicken, who also serves on the board of directors for The Ossabaw Island Foundation. “It’s important to honor his remarkable legacy and his invaluable contribution to our understanding of Ossabaw Island’s unique place in environmental history.”


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The Eleanor “Sandy” West Ossabaw Fellowship