Marine geologist Dr. Stan Riggs is among the six chosen to be awarded the state’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award.
In addition to Riggs, the 2022 honorees are the Honorable Eva Clayton for Public Service, Honorable Mickey Michaux for Public Service, Eric Church for Fine Arts, David Zucchino for Literature and Dr. Priya Kishnani for Science. Gov. Roy Cooper is to present the awards during a ceremony Nov. 15 at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Riggs began his work as a marine geologist in the 1960s during a time when few people recognized the importance of climate change research, according an announcement Thursday from state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Riggs started working at East Carolina University in 1967 and spent 33 years teaching geology and tracking change within the state’s coastal system. He was one of five scientists ECU recruited for its geology department to kickstart the university’s new geology and marine science program. He has published several books on coastal dynamics and climate change, including “Drowning the North Carolina Coast” and “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast.”
“These individuals have enriched North Carolina and our nation through their extraordinary accomplishments,” Reid Wilson, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said in a statement. “Each of them has enhanced the lives of North Carolinians through their lasting achievements in the arts, literature, sciences and public service.”
Clayton, the first African American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress, was also the state’s first Black representative since 1901 when she took office in the closing months of the 102nd Congress in 1992. After retiring from Congress in 2003, Clayton spent three years in Rome, Italy, as assistant director-general of the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Michaux has spent more than 50 years as an activist, businessman and politician. He served in the N.C. House of Representatives from 1973-77 and 1983-2019. He was appointed in 1977 to serve as a U.S. attorney, becoming the first African American to serve in that role in the South since Reconstruction.
Church, born in Granite Falls and an Appalachian State University graduate, is a multi-ACM and CMA Award winner, including the 2020 award for CMA Entertainer of the Year. In 2013, Church and his wife founded the Chief Cares Fund, an organization that provides aid to those in need, in both the U.S. and around the world.
Zucchino is a contributing writer for The New York Times and winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for his book, “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.” He is the author of “Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad” and “Myth of the Welfare Queen.”
Kishnani has treated patients and conducted groundbreaking basic and clinical research at Duke University School of Medicine for close to 30 years. She currently is the Chen Family Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and the chief of the Division of Medical Genetics.
The award was created by the General Assembly in 1961 to recognize significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science. Since the award’s inception, more than 250 notable men and women have been honored including Selma Burke, William Friday, James Taylor, Etta Baker, Charles Kuralt, Maya Angelou, Lee Smith and Branford Marsalis.