ORONO, Maine — For Judy Kellogg Markowsky, being named a winner of the Maryann Hartman Award is an indication her life has come full circle.
The Hampden resident had wanted to study zoology or biology as a student.
She chose another path for most of her working life outside of Maine, but when Markowsky moved back she started Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden, now one of the most popular nature centers in the state.
Markowsky was honored Wednesday evening at the University of Maine’s Buchanan Alumni House along with two other Hartman Award winners — Layne Gregory of Falmouth and Fatuma Hussein of Lewiston.
Lewiston High School students Katelyn Jacques and Amy Jar Wei Yeung were named winners of the Young Women’s Social Justice Award.
Named for the late Maryann Hartman, who was a teacher and scholar in speech communication at the University of Maine, the award recognizes distinguished Maine women and their accomplishments in the arts, politics, business, education and community service.
“It is very nice,” Markowsky said. “I didn’t know anyone was doing this for me.”
The Hartman Award, in its 24th year, is sponsored by UMaine’s Women in the Curriculum and Women’s Studies Program. The awards are determined by a committee including Ann Schonberger, who directs both programs.
Markowsky, who grew up in Bangor, recalled Wednesday returning home from childhood outings along the Kenduskeag Steam with a live muskrat or a jar of baby eels. But at Smith College in New York Markowsky decided to major in French and earned a master’s degree in library science; she set aside her professional interest in nature for a career as a school librarian.
After she returned to Maine in 1984, Markowsky eventually was hired by Maine Audubon to open Fields Pond, a 192-acre nature preserve and education center.
“Maine Audubon got the land, and it was a little challenging at the beginning, but I thought it was a wonderful place for a nature center,” Markowsky said before the ceremony. “It gets more and more visitors as the years roll on.”
Markowsky retired three months ago.
Dorothy Croall, a University of Maine biochemistry professor who presented Markowsky with the Hartman award, said the Fields Pond center is now a “valued asset” in the Bangor region.
“She is prominently known for her role as a driving force for both establishing and sustaining the [center], where she was a dedicated, visionary, patient and seemingly tireless founding director,” Croall said.
Some of Markowsky’s other achievements have come in the field of local environmental activism, particularly in a push several years ago to stop development near the Penjajawoc Marsh area in Bangor.
Gregory is the executive director and a founder of Boys to Men, an organization which seeks to reduce violence through encouraging the healthy development of adolescent boys and young men.
Hussein, who was among the first three Somali families to arrive in Lewiston in 2001, is the founder and executive director of United Somali Women in Maine, which serves as a resource center for all women and children.
Jacques and Yeung founded the organization Hearts for Adolescents, which aims to reach out to Lewiston High School’s homeless population.