MCMP Outdoor Education Manager Ray Novotny Receives Two National Awards

Mill Creek MetroParks Outdoor Education Manager Ray Novotny has received both the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) Meritorious Service Award and the Thomas Say Naturalist Award of Excellence for Outstanding Event or Program. The awards were presented at NAI’s national workshop in November in Denver, Colorado. NAI recognizes excellence in interpretation through their professional awards program. Ray has worked for Mill Creek MetroParks since 1985 and is a Life Member of NAI.

awardsEach year the Meritorious Service Award honors members who have performed extensive and invaluable service to NAI, especially on the national level. “Ray has dedicated himself to preparing and submitting nominations to honor those special individuals among us. He has done this year after year; with little more than a simple thank you so that the interpretation community is aware of their individual achievements. He has continued with this mission with no desire to self-promote or to receive any recognition. His only purpose has been to expose his colleagues doing good work to the greater membership of NAI,” said Cem Basman, NAI Vice President for Administration, who nominated Ray for the award.

“Award nominating has evolved into my unique niche in life,” said Ray. “I submitted my first ever nomination in 1985, and after about a dozen successes began to increase my efforts substantially in 2000. It’s a privilege for me to serve as the catalyst for well-deserved recognition. I deeply appreciate NAI ‘turning the tables’ on me.”

The Thomas Say Naturalist Award of Excellence, bestowed by NAI’s Interpretive Naturalist Section, strives to honor naturalists who have demonstrated the highest accomplishments of the profession and have inspired greater understanding, awareness, and stewardship of our natural resources. The award was presented to Ray for his Reptile Exhibit/Bug Day programs. “These have been my signature events for decades, and I hope will be my legacy,” said Ray. “I would like to share this award with all of my past and present MetroParks colleagues, volunteers, exhibitors, and visitors who helped make these special events so successful.”

This award is named after self-taught naturalist Thomas Say (1787-1834), who identified more than 1,500 species of insects and animals unique to North America and was a brave naturalist who helped blaze a trail for future naturalists. This award program is named in his honor, as are numerous species such as (a western bird) Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya. He represents innovation, commitment, and a passion to contribute to science.

“Both awards speak to the level of excellence that Ray exhibits as an interpretive professional, which in turn serves to reflect on the level of professionalism of our MetroParks naturalist staff led by Ray,” said Carol Vigorito, Mill Creek MetroParks Recreation and Education Manager. “We are all so proud of Ray. These awards are much deserved.”


About the National Association for Interpretation (NAI)

The National Association for Interpretation (NAI) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) professional association for those involved in the interpretation of natural and cultural heritage resources in settings such as parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, aquaria, botanical gardens, and historical sites. For more than 50 years, NAI and its parent organizations have encouraged networking, training, and collaboration among members and partners in support of our mission: inspiring leadership and excellence to advance heritage interpretation as a profession. NAI’s growing network of members includes volunteers, docents, interpreters, naturalists, historians, rangers, park guards, guides, tour operators, program directors, consultants, academicians, planners, suppliers, and institutions. NAI has 5,000 members in over 30 countries with three international affiliate organizations: NAI-Greece, NAI-Korea, and NAI-China. For more information about the November workshop or the organization, contact NAI Executive Director, Margo Carlock in Ft. Collins, Colorado. (1-888-900-8283) or visit our website at