VIRTUAL CHICAGO, Illinois—The Visual Resources Association (VRA), a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to furthering research and education in the field of image management, proudly presented the 2021 Distinguished Service Award (DSA) to Marcia Meeker Focht, Binghamton University’s Visual Resources Curator, at the Virtual Chicago conference on March 25th. The VRA annually honors an individual who has made an outstanding career contribution to the field of visual resources and image management. DSA recipients have achieved a level of distinction through leadership, research, service to the profession, outstanding innovation, participation, or project management.
In over 30 years of active participation in VRA, Focht has helped to shape the association through her empathetic leadership and extraordinary service record—two terms on the VRA Executive Board, participation in various committees, task forces, and other special interest groups, and currently, Chair of the VRA Foundation. This breadth of service is only surpassed by her considerable professional talents, sincere dedication, and engaging personality. For example, she is primarily responsible for the success of the VRA Mentor Program with 13 years of “cheerleading” and matching new members with nurturing veterans to contribute to positive conference experiences and to help with ongoing professional development. She has welcomed more people to VRA than any other member, mentored many a future leader, and contributed to member retention. A forward-looking embracer of new technologies, Focht successfully transitioned her image collection from analog to digital images, collaborated with other campuses in the SUNY system to find ways to share Binghamton’s growing collection, and she continues to experiment with new technologies through digital humanities initiatives. As Tom McDonough, a Binghamton professor, stated in his letter of support, “What I’d most like to emphasize here, however, is not so much her assistance to the Art History faculty—her role was never merely supplemental or supportive—but her groundbreaking role in introducing us to the research and pedagogical potentials of the new tools offered by digital technology. Marcia could never be mistaken for a complacent figure; she has consistently sought out new ideas, new opportunities, and brought them back to campus to share with students and faculty alike.” An “ambassador” of embedded metadata, she has presented and published on the innovative tools the VRA developed at regional, national, and international conferences. Focht’s career-long dedication has involved hard work, intellectual curiosity, and impressive productivity, all accomplished with boundless enthusiasm, genuine warmth, and an infectious sense of humor. VRA President, Jeannine Keefer, stated “Marcia exemplifies the numerous ways that members can participate and give back to VRA via committee and chapter participation, leadership roles, discussion contributions, and sharing our work with the world outside the association. Her mentorship and encouragement has meant the world to me over the years. I could not have asked for a better professional role model or a more dear friend.” Focht richly deserves the DSA award for her unparalleled spirit of volunteerism and career-long dedication to the visual resources profession. She has given “her head and her heart” to VRA and the membership has benefitted greatly from her generosity. http://vraweb.org/about/committees/awards-committee/vra-awards-recipients/