The Minerva Society
The Minerva Society represents the Wisconsin Academy's most generous annual patrons. The Roman goddess Minerva is the embodiment of wisdom and the eternal foe of ignorance. Minerva Society Laureates exemplify the spirit of Minerva through their lifelong commitment to art and culture.
Minerva Society Laureates include:
- 2000 - Uta Hagen
- 2001 - Lukas Foss & Kitt Reuter-Foss
- 2002 - Jim Abrahams
- 2003 - Randall Duk Kim
- 2004 - David Maraniss
- 2005 - Ben Sidran
- 2006 - Lee Ernst
- 2008 - Leotha Stanley
Betty Ferris, the 2009 Minerva Society Laureate
Since 1986, Betty Ferris has contributed much to the magic behind Big Top Chautauqua, the performing arts organinzation in Bayfield County devoted to developing cultural understanding and an appreciation for the history of the Upper Midwest. A founding member of the organization, she served as president of the first Board of Directors and for nearly 25 years has been Big Top's visuals director, presenting all projected images for Chautauqua tent-theater shows at home and on tour. The shows draw largely on songs, stories and images from the many original "illustrated musical histories" Ferris has co-created with Warren Nelson for community celebrations of people, places, and events throughout the Great Lakes region. She was a co-recipient of the first Wisconsin History Award and the 2007 Governor's Award in Support of the Arts. In 1992, Ferris received an Historic Preservation Award for leading the citizen effort which returned the historic fresnel lens to the Devil's Island Lighthouse Tower. But Ferris wears other hats as well. Under contract with CESA12, she coordinated two regional federal Teach American History grants that provided professional development for K-12 educators in northern Wisconsin school districts. Ferris also created a variety of Wisconsin Idea-inspired AV materials for UW-Madison, including her traveling show "Stories of Old Wisconsin" and the award-winning Wisconsin Electronic Reader sesquicentennial website. In her distinguished career, she has continued to serve as a social justice advocate for the elderly and people with disabilities. She was the founding director of Disability Rights Wisconsin, the State's Governor-designated protection and advocacy agency, and was recently phase I planning project manager for Wisconsin's new eleven-county, northwest Long Term Care District. She lives in Washburn.