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Elisabeth Ruffner Keystone Award for Community Leadership


Starting a new tradition in 2019, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Arizona Preservation Foundation, and host city of the Arizona Historic Preservation Conference have presented the Elisabeth Ruffner Keystone Award for Community Leadership. The award honors individuals whose commercial, political, philanthropic, artistic, planning, or advocacy efforts have contributed to their communities' quality of life, sense of place, and heritage appreciation.


“In construction, the keystone connects and stabilizes the whole, providing necessary support and strength. And our award recognizes community leaders whose motivation and passion have fostered the resources and connections necessary for preservation to thrive within their communities." ~ Kathryn Leonard, State Historic Preservation Officer


“The Keystone Award's namesake, Elisabeth Ruffner, was a tireless advocate for historic preservation who devoted her public life to enhancing her hometown of Prescott. She was a co-founder of the Arizona Preservation Foundation back in 1979. This award honors Arizonans who likewise have made their homes better places, enhanced civic identity, and become indispensable Keystones of their communities.” ~ Jim McPherson, Arizona Preservation Foundation Board President

2024 Honoree – Dennis Gallagher, Prescott​

Founded in 2012 by Dennis Gallagher, the mission of the Western Heritage Center (WHC) is to “preserve and promote the Prescott area’s western heritage through education, events, art, music, and projects that enhance its western lifestyle, making Prescott and Yavapai County unique and desirable places to live and visit.” To overcome initial funding challenges, Dennis designed a medallion for the Arizona Centennial, raising $15,000 to launch the project. The WHC has since hosted numerous fundraising events, established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and created a scholarship program that has awarded 22 $2,000 scholarships to graduating high school students. In 2019, WHC acquired and remodeled a space on Whiskey Row to house exhibits from six regional preservation-related organizations, including the History of Yavapai Law Enforcement, Rough Riders, Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Phippen Museum, Sharlot Hall Museum, and Yavapai Cowbelles, along with a private collection of Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo memorabilia. Since its opening, WHC has added nearly 20 more exhibits and maintained free admission for all visitors, supported by fundraisers, private donors, mercantile sales, a few grants, and volunteers. WHC has welcomed 70,000 visitors from around the world since 2019.


2023 Honoree – Sandy Chan, Tucson​

  • Sandy served as an academic librarian for 25 years at Pima Community College

  • She's a former president of the Arizona Genealogical Society. Volunteered for nine years at the Arizona Historical Society's Library and Archives in Tucson.

  • She led the development of the Chinese History Lab in collaboration with the Arizona Historical Society and Tucson Chinese Cultural Center in 2018

  • She collaborated with the Vail Preservation Society and Tucson Transportation Museum on projects related to Chinese railroad laborers in Southern Arizona

  • She contributed to the creation of a future public art mural and short film titled "The Water Boys" and its accompanying lesson plan, making Arizona Asian American history accessible in classrooms

  • She presented on the history of the Tucson Chinese community in various cultural organizations' programs

  • She conducted research on Tucson's Chinese grocery stores, shedding light on an important chapter of Tucson's history

  • She contributed to the University of Arizona's Mapping Racial Covenants Project

  • She maintains the website"The History of Tucson's Chinese Community"


2022 Honoree – Tina Clark, Yuma​

  • Tina wrote grants that secured more than $10 million in funds for the Yuma East Wetlands, Gateway Park, and West Wetlands

  • The Great Recession threatened the closure of both Yuma state parks by Arizona State Parks in 2009, and the community had to step up to save them. Coming from a diverse professional background of archaeology, museum curation, and interior design, Tina worked within the space of six short months to transform the museums at the Yuma Territorial Prison and Colorado River State Historic Parks into showpieces that could be sustainably operated.

  • In her “spare” time, Tina devoted herself to preserving many of Yuma’s historic treasures including rehabilitation of the National Register listed St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 637 2nd Avenue into a reception and catering venue. Operating until 2022, “Tina’s Cocina'' was known far and wide for its great food, music, and fellowship.

  • Tina provided important archaeology monitoring services for the Quechan Indian Tribe for many of their projects, as well as for other sites within the National Historic Landmark.

  • Tina developed and gave legendary walking “Ghost Tours” in downtown Yuma for residents and visitors alike. She brought Yuma’s history to life in a fun and entertaining way.

  • Tina’s work with the Arizona Historical Society to rehabilitate the Sanguinetti House into a museum destination not only reimagined a historically significant space that had grown tired, but also sparked a community-wide effort to bring the Sanguinetti gardens back to life and to develop a shared vision for the revitalization of the Molina Block.

Yuma artist Judy Phillips was commissioned to create the 2022 Keystone Award. Judy's fused glass design depicts the historic Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge and the iconic Yuma Territorial Prison guard tower. Watch this YouTube video of Tina's work in Yuma.

2021 Honoree ~ Darlene Justus, Tempe

  • Darlene championed the rehabilitation of the 1930 Rose Eisendrath House at 1400 North College Avenue

  • She co-founded the Tempe Historic Preservation Foundation

  • She was a tireless advocate to preserve the east side (Tempe’s portion) of Papago Park

  • She oversaw the desert landscape restoration of Evelyn Hallman Park in North Tempe

  • Her work leading the North Tempe Neighborhood Association kept questionable and inappropriate businesses out of North Tempe neighborhoods

  • Her voice and opinions at Tempe City Council meetings on scores of issues has always been respected


Artist Jacob Butler was commissioned to create the 2021 Keystone Award from a laevicardium elatum, the same type of shell found in Arizona's ancient sites and sourced only in the Sea of Cortez. The shell is acid etched with saguaro wine, a 1,400-year-old O’Odham tradition.

2019 Honoree ~ Elisabeth Ruffner, Prescott

  • Elisabeth was instrumental in establishing numerous historic districts. She has worked to save more than 700-plus historic buildings in Arizona and helped secure each one a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

  • She chaired the Prescott Public Library Board and led the capital campaign to obtain funding for a new library building

  • She was one of the founders of the Arizona Preservation Foundation and served as its first president

  • She served as founding president of the Prescott Area Arts and Humanities Council and president of the Yavapai Heritage Foundation

  • She served as Chair of the City of Prescott Mayor’s Committee on Economic Development where she wrote and saw adopted the Prescott Historic Preservation Ordinance

  • She was Chair of the state’s Historic Sites Review Committee, served as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and received a Presidential appointment to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Services

  • She spearheaded the capital campaign for Prescott's Elks Opera House, raising over $1.7 million for its successful renovation and preservation

Watch this YouTube video on Elisabeth's accomplishments in Prescott and Yavapai County.​

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