Each year The NEED Project receives nominations for the Distinguished Service Award and for the Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award.

These nominees are among the most committed NEED teachers, NEED sponsors, and NEED friends. They represent NEED’s mission and philosophy by engaging students in energy explorations, by helping teachers learn how to effectively teach energy in their classrooms, and by supporting NEED with their time and talents. They join a long list of great NEED people who have been a part of NEED’s success for many years.

Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award

Right after Thanksgiving 2012, NEED received word that Bob Thompson, one of our former teachers and staff members died suddenly. For the NEED family, this loss reminded us of the great times we had with Bob and his wife Debbie and all the fun we had as a team at teacher workshops, NEED Energy Conferences for Educators and our BP Solar Schools, BP A+ for Energy Program workshops and many others. Bob was a key part of our H2 Educate and Wind for Schools programming early on and delivered workshops for us in Illinois and all across the country for several years. When I think of Bob, I think of all the gee whiz moments that happen in science. I also think of Bob’s childlike wonder about science, and specifically about energy. We’re an organization of Energy Nerds. Big ones. We think of energy as a unifying theme in science. We think of energy as cool. Bob loved energy and loved teaching about energy. He also loved taking care of people. I can attest that I never picked up my own luggage, never had to carry my own laptop bag or open a door when Bob was around. He was a gentleman, a great teacher, and an explorer. As an ultralight pilot he would fly near wind turbines installed in Illinois. As a huge fan of aerospace, he would stand with me in the Avis parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport and stare into the heavens at the jet planes coming in to land. Then there was the time he shoved my ice cream cone in my face. That was funny. It was also cooling since we were in La Quinta, California

It was all science. All the time. Bob explored. Bob taught exploration. Bob energized workshops of teachers and classrooms of kids.

He was special. Special to all of us at NEED and to the teachers and students he worked with over time. Because of this, NEED has established the Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Award that will be given each year to a teacher who exemplifies Bob’s childlike wonder of science and energy. The award includes a $1,000 cash grant to the teacher to use as they so choose in the classroom and an all-expenses paid trip to the NEED Energy Conference for Educators hosted each July.

– Mary Spruill, Executive Director

**Congratulations to the 2024 Award Winning Recipients**

Jonathan Alexis
Lab School of Washington
Washington, D.C.

Jill Cook
Oakridge Elementary School
Moore, OK

Christie Fouts
Beloit Jr/Sr High School
Beloit, KS

Susan Hall
King Philip Middle School
Norfolk, MA

Cesia Medina
Windsor Village Elementary
Houston, TX

Paula Miller
Abraham Lincoln High School
Philadelphia, PA

Nicholas Ozarka
Hampshire High School
Hampshire, IL 60140

Mellissa Pfaff
Academy High School
Thornton, CO

Scott Valenta
St. John the Baptist School
Winfield, IL

Latanza Williams
Lincoln County Elementary
Lincolnton, GA

Past Bob Thompson Award Winners:

2013 – Erin Gockel & Constance Josvai

2014 – Karen McPherson

2015 – Barbara Lazar

2016 – Joseph Paris

2017 – Teresa Fulk

2018 – Mark Case

2019 – Nina Corley, Greg Holman, & Connie Michael

2020 – Ayo Akatugba, Kevin Crosby, & Erin Zackey

2021 – Laura Cummings, Tyler Dufrene, Audrey Hughes, Lynsey McQueen, Cori Nelson, & Patricia Orta

2022 – Vida Cantieri, Karely Carlos, Jennifer Davis, Kitty Douglas, Kara Schulte,  & Kandice Taylor

2023 – Adebisi Babayemi, Michael Demeno, Cecelia Gillam, Matthew Reis, & Kristin Slota

Distinguished Service Award

Each year The NEED Project selects an individual or individuals who have made a significant impact on NEED’s success during their involvement over at least a 10 year period to receive the Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes a commitment to energy education and a dedication to making NEED stronger and the best it can be. Previous winners include NEED teachers, NEED champions within the energy industry, energy professionals, public servants working for energy agencies, and more.


1983  Donald Duggan
1984  John Fowler
1985  Walt Purdy
1986  Leslie Ramsey
1987  Janet White Castellini
1988  Rich Ammentorp
1989  Ed Dalton
1990  Alan Sowards
1991  Casey Woodard
1992  Paul Torcellini
1993  Kathryn McCoy
1994  Donna Robinson
1995  Shauni Nix
1996  Carol Wilson
1997  Hank Sullivan
1998  Marie Lauricella
1999  Julie Capobianco

2000  Debby Yerkes
2001  Peggy Chamness
2002  Anne Allen & Chyrall Dawson
2003  Larry Richards & Mary Lou Green
2004  Scott Sutherland & John Weiner
2005  Libby Dudley, Marietta Devine, & Linda Hutton
2006  Constance Beatty
2007  Gerald Harrington & Joanne Spaziano
2008  Viola Henry & Irene Brown
2009  Linda Lung, Lena Cook, & Galen Cobb
2010  Tom Fry & Ramona Nelson
2011  Kevin Galligan, Shelly Baumann, Becky Grimm, & Richard Zuercher
2012  John Davies & Greg Guess
2013  Connie Bond, Diane Lear, & Carolyn Wuerst
2014  Wayne Yonkelowitz, Linda Fonner, & Paula Barnett
2015  Barbra Lazar & Robert Lazar

2016  Shannon Donovan, Renee Roddick, & Kelly Ann Couch
2017  Audrey Hughes, Leslie Lively, Debbie Pate, & Judy Reeves
2018  Maggie Downey, Mary McCarthy, Don Pruett, & Andrea Schindler
2019  Robert Greigoliet, Christina Kerrigan, Karen Labat, Al Ryan, & Amy Schott
2022 Steve Solomon, Lisa Campbell, Gayle Sims, & Karen Reagor
2023 Paula Conrad, Nina Corley, Glen Kizer, & Debbie Pate