Former Five Rivers Director Craig Thompson (left) and Jefferson Award recipient Robert Greenman during the April 3 ceremony. (photo submitted)
BETHLEHEM — Robert Greenman, of Sunset Drive in Delmar, received a well-deserved Jefferson Award on Tuesday, April 3, at the Century House in Latham during an event sponsored by St. Peter’s Health Partners, NewsChannel 13 and the Times Union. While he appreciates the appreciation, Greenman said that the recognition certainly wasn’t his goal.
“I don’t play golf,” said Greenman, a retired 40-year employee of the local telephone company. Seeing people of all ages learn and succeed due to the efforts of the many organizations with which he is involved, he said, “That’s my hole-in-one.”
Named for Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Awards Foundation is a non-profit organization that “recognizes, inspires and activates volunteerism and public service in communities, workplaces and schools across America.” It was founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, who still serves as the institute’s president.
Greenman was nominated for the award, which honors public service in communities across the country, by the Friends of Five Rivers (FFR), a non-profit organization that supports educational programming at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar. Greenman is well known for his many long-standing contributions to civic life in the Capital Region, particularly in the Town of Bethlehem.
“I said yes,” he said, when asked how he became involved in so many volunteer activities. He said he has been approached over the years by various people who suggested he might enjoy one opportunity or the other — and that he almost invariably agreed.
For more than 40 years — longer than any other volunteer — Greenman has supported the activities of FFR. He has been a volunteer instructor, leading school groups in various natural science studies, and has been instrumental in implementing various educational and capital improvements at the Five Rivers site — a storage shed, a demonstration bee-hive, a telescope at a popular outdoor viewing area. He has been certified by Cornell’s Master Forest Owners Program to provide information to forest owners about forest management resources and best practices. He has offered his forestry expertise in several special event festivals and woods walks at Five Rivers, and was instrumental in providing timely and accurate public education and information about forest management practices at Five Rivers. Greenman has also served as an officer on the FFR Board of Directors.
In addition to his work at Five Rivers, Greenman has logged more than 8,000 hours of volunteer service as a Senior Services Van driver since 1991. He has been teaching the monthly AARP Safe Driving Course for Bethlehem Senior Services for 22 years and was the statewide coordinator, supporting other Safe Driving Course instructors.
Greenman has been involved with the Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council since the 1980s, serving as a cub master, scoutmaster, board officer, Camp Master, and District Chair. He currently serves as Chair of the Veterans Scout Association and is on the Eagle Scout Board of Review.
Greenman has been continuously affiliated with the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Elm Ave. for more than 50 years, teaching Bible classes and serving as an officer and president of the Church Council. He was instrumental in the development of the Good Samaritan Lutheran Home, where he served on the Board.
He has also served as a Volunteer Greeter at the Visitor Information Desk of the New York State Museum for over a decade.
Greenman played a pivotal role on the Bethlehem town committee charged with the renovation of Bethlehem’s Veterans Memorial Park. In recognition of his many contributions to civic life in the Town of Bethlehem, the Chamber of Commerce presented him with its Community Service Award in April 2014 — prompting a resolution, passed by the State Legislature on March 31, stating, “Robert Greenman’s love for his fellow human beings and commitment to these local organizations is evident through the vast number of volunteer hours he invests . . . Rare indeed is the impressive dedication shown by an individual for the benefit of others which Robert Greenman has displayed throughout his life.”
A trained engineer, Greenman is the founder and Treasurer of the Albany Society for Engineers. He serves as a judge for RPI’s Machine Design Competition. One of his favorite activities is helping to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs through SCORE, a federal Small Business Administration initiative.
“To see them succeed,” he said, “I mean, wow. That’s just my thing. There’s a great satisfaction in seeing other people growing in what they’re doing.”
Greenman has also taken great pleasure in his long association with Junior Achievement, visiting classrooms to discuss how science instruction applies to the real world.
“Just to see them seeing beyond to what’s out there in the world,” he said. “They light up. That’s what I really enjoy.”
“We at the Friends think that the lives of countless people, from young children to seniors, have been improved thanks to Mr. Greenman’s passion for public service,” said FFR Executive Director Joanne Macklin. “Having dedicated his entire life to making our community a better place, Mr. Greenman is, in our opinion, the very embodiment of the spirit of the Jefferson Award.”
“It certainly is a great award and I’m appreciative of receiving it,” Greenman said. “But my satisfaction really comes from seeing others learn and succeed in their own lives — whether it’s grade school kids at Five Rivers, or middle school kids with Junior Achievement or adults — I get so much satisfaction from seeing people at SCORE be successful with their business.”