New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences presented the Distinguished Alumni Award to Shelburne resident Lola Van Wagenen on Oct. 20 for her work
on behalf of women, children, history, and the environment.
Public education has been the main focus of Van Wagenen’s professional and intellectual life. Over the last 40 years she has both founded and served as executive officer, adviser, or board member for numerous educational and public interest organizations.
Van Wagenen co-founded Consumer Action Now (CAN) a not-for-profit education organization in New York City in 1970. CAN established a variety of consumer-environmental education programs to demonstrate the relationship between consumer buying habits and the environment. For more than a decade she worked to advance environmental and women’s issues. For this work, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Pratt Institute.
In 1980 Van Wagenen began her academic career; she received her B.A. from Vermont College two years later. In 1984 she finished her Master’s Degree in the liberal studies/public history program at New York University (NYU). After completing her Ph.D. in American History at NYU, Van Wagenen co-founded Clio Visualizing History, an educational website. She hoped to integrate her experience in education and public interest with her academic background—to bring American history to abroad public audience and meet the growing need for innovative history education projects in multiple media platforms.
In 2002, Clio changed its corporate structure from a company that provided services and developed projects for clients to a not-for-profit organization that focuses exclusively on its own American history educational projects through documentary films, the World Wide Web and other new media projects. Van Wagenen currently produces Clio’s online exhibits, selecting each project and working directly with the authors and advisers.
For Clio, Van Wagenen served as an executive producer for “Miss America: A Documentary Film,” which aired on the PBS “American Experience” in January 2002 and December 2004. Clio also developed “Catching the Shadow: Women at Photography in the 19th Century,” which received scripting funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and ultimately became the basis for Clio’s online photography exhibits. In 2003 her dissertation “Sister-wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage 1870-1896” was published by BYU Studies, at Brigham Young University.
Van Wagenen has been appointed to a variety of national organizations and committees that work on behalf of women, children, history, and the environment. She has served as a commissioner for United Nations International Year of the Child, a board member for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, and a board member for the National Audubon Society. For a decade she served as a trustee of the Vermont Historical Society and currently serves on the board of Shelburne Farms.