2017 Charles Brown Award recipients, from left to right, Diane Washenberger, director of instruction for Salem City Schools; Salem Sheriff Eric “Ric” Atkins; former Salem City Manager Forest Jones; and David Turk, teacher and coach.

2017 Charles Brown Award recipients, from left to right, Diane Washenberger, director of instruction for Salem City Schools; Salem Sheriff Eric "Ric" Atkins; former Salem City Manager Forest Jones; and David Turk, teacher and coach.

By Roanoke College News

Four receive Roanoke College Charles Brown Award

Roanoke College today recognized an unprecedented four individuals for their impact and influence in the city of Salem.

Eric "Ric" Atkins, Forest Jones, David Turk and Diane Washenberger each received the Charles Brown Award during a breakfast ceremony at the College. The award is given each year to a Salem resident who has contributed significantly, both professionally and civically, to the city's quality of life. It is named for Dr. Charles Brown, the College's first dean and a former mayor of Salem. 

"This year, we received a record number of nominations for the award," Roanoke College President Michael C. Maxey said. "Because this year marks the 175th anniversary for Roanoke College, we've taken the opportunity to recognize several individuals for the award."

Award recipient Ric Atkins has worked with the City of Salem for 33 years, serving the last nine years as sheriff. He began his law enforcement career in 1984 as deputy sheriff with the City of Salem Sheriff's Office. Atkins was promoted to chief deputy in 2000 and as accreditation manager, brought the office to accredited status in 2005. He was sworn in as sheriff in 2007. 

Atkins serves on the executive board of the Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy as well as the Western Virginia Regional Jail. He is chairman of the 23rd Circuit Drug Court Advisory Board and is past vice chairman of the Regional VASAP board of directors.

"I will always owe so much to this place, this city, this community, than I could ever repay," Atkins said after receiving the award.

Award recipient Forest Jones served as Salem city manager from 2000-2008, as position he ascended to after serving for 13 years as assistant city manager. During his years in city management, Salem saw the development of the Moyer Sports Complex and the Memorial Baseball Stadium. He also led city efforts on renovation projects for the fire and police station, a new water plant and electric facility, and the Salem's Farmer's Market.

Jones was instrumental in securing the NCAA Division III Football Championship, known as the Stagg Bowl, as well as basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball championships, the Division II Softball Championship, and the ACC Baseball Championship.

In 2008, he joined the Virginia Western Community College Local Advisory Board, and worked to establish the Community College Access Program (CCAP) in Salem. The program initially provided tuition funding at Virginia Western for up to two years for Salem High School graduates and has since been expanded to cover all of Virginia Western's service region.

"To be considered for this award makes me feel so good," Jones said, noting the "great" partnership" between the College and the city. "What this city has done for me, and for my family, has been unreal."

Award recipient David Turk has positively influenced the lives of many students, both as a teacher and a coach. He has coached for 27 years at Lord Botetourt and Salem high schools, at Roanoke Catholic and at Hollins University.

Turk has led his teams to 10 district championships; 16 trips to regionals, with at least one regional championship; and at least four state appearances. In 1997-1998, he led Salem to the VSHL Group AA Championship for volleyball. Turk has also won numerous district, region, state and Timesland Coach of the Year awards, including the Gold Medal Coach of the Year Award twice.

"I'd like to thank my mom and dad, who are no longer here but who gave me the fundamental guidance to make me what I am," Turk said. "I'd also like to thank my wife. Teaching and coaching take an immeasurable amount of time; my wife deserves this award probably more than I do."

Award recipient Diane Washenberger has had a 32-year career with Salem City Schools, one that began in 1985 as a math teacher at Salem High School. Currently, she serves as director of instruction for the Salem school system, a position she advanced to after serving as principal of Salem's G.W. Carver Elementary School and as director of elementary instruction for Salem schools.

Washenberger is active with the Virginia Federal Education Program Administrators Board, serving as the Region 6 representative for the past 16 years. She also is active at the state and regional levels, working to develop and use performance-based assessments for student work.

For years, Washenberger has promoted swimming for youth in the Roanoke Valley. She worked with the Salem YMCA to pilot the second-grade swimming program, now known as YSplash, at G.W. Carver 20 years ago, teaching hundreds of Salem children about swimming safety.

Working for Salem schools, has been "a blessing," Washenberger said upon receiving the Charles Brown Award. "I'm so fortunate to have had so many citizens entrust me with their [children's] care," she said.