2022 Recipient Bios
Nichole Biber, PhD, Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) Odawa, Anishinaabekwe
Nichole Biber has created opportunities for those in her neighborhood to connect with, listen to and learn from one another. She believes one of the most important things those in a position of privilege and security can do is to invite the perspectives and listen to the experiences of those who suffer the consequences of inequality and bigotry. She believes in a moral imperative to raise up the most vulnerable and oppressed among us. In 2020, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, Nichole answered a call from the Pinecrest Neighborhood Association to find a way to show support for BIPOC neighbors. She suggested a neighborhood Juneteenth event that included a peaceful one-mile march through the neighborhood. The event was attended by almost 200 people and concluded with an open mic rally in Henry Fine Park for residents to speak their truth and commune with neighbors. The event was hosted again in 2021 and was expanded to include community members from all East Lansing neighborhoods.
As a climate change activist and LTTB Odawa, Nichole is also a champion and advocate for East Lansing as a Pollinator Friendly Community and has created how-to videos for residents interested in creating wildflower gardens. Additionally, on Earth Day 2021, she invited Pinecrest neighbors to her home garden to see what she was growing and share seeds. She is also currently chairing an effort to build a Community Garden in her neighborhood and is serving on the Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission.
Nichole is also a librarian at Robert L. Green Elementary School and, in that role, has encouraged students to learn and read, and has also led students through Indigenous Peoples’ Day lessons. Nichole’s nominators suspect that she has only just begun to make a positive impact in the community.
Gary Buckberry has been an active community member for more than 11 years, dedicating much of his time volunteering at the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL). In 2011, Gary gathered other library aficionados to create the Community Advisory Committee at ELPL. The committee, led by Gary, met monthly for several years to share ideas and discuss trends with the library director. The committee also provided library staff with invaluable insight into the East Lansing community, which was extremely helpful when library staff were developing a new strategic plan. Thanks to Gary’s leadership and work with the committee, library staff were provided with a tremendous amount of information on the community’s wants and needs regarding ELPL’s services and resources.
In recent years, Gary has dedicated countless volunteer hours to scanning, digitizing and annotating historical photos of East Lansing homes for the library. If not for Gary’s ability and willingness to digitize these photos, they would not be easily searchable and accessible for community members and researchers alike. His work also saved the library tens of thousands of dollars and added a layer of access to East Lansing local history. Gary has also spent countless hours helping with the library’s capital campaign and renovation project.
Once restrictions were eased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary was the first volunteer back at the library and he kept in touch with library staff throughout the pandemic closure, always offering words of encouragement and hope. The East Lansing Public Library would not be what it is today without Gary and his invaluable volunteerism and positive leadership.
Kathleen "Kathy" Boyle was an extraordinary, caring and engaged community member who devoted almost all of her volunteer energies to East Lansing, whether at the neighborhood or City-wide level. She truly cared about the betterment of the community she called home and she was a consummate, dedicated public servant.
In addition to serving on the East Lansing City Council from 2012-2015, Kathy served for many years as an East Lansing election inspector and as a volunteer member on several of the City of East Lansing’s commissions and committees, including the East Lansing Planning Commission, the East Lansing Housing Commission, the Age-Friendly Community Committee and the Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission. During her public service, she was always caring and respectful, open to dialogue on all issues and concerns and motivated by her lifelong ideals of justice and engagement. Her work, actions and decision-making were always guided by careful analysis of the facts, accurate application of relevant ordinances and policies and rational consideration of the best interest of all citizens and taxpayers in the City of East Lansing. Kathy also encouraged the involvement of other public servants, not only by her example, but by providing invaluable mentoring to those around her.
Additionally, Kathy was a longtime member of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, serving on the vestry there, an active member of her neighborhood, a gifted seamstress, avid gardener and a member of the Obedience Training Club of Greater Lansing. She was also an exceptional lawyer, a great friend and a beloved family member. One of her nominators said it best when they said: “There can be no better example of the true meaning of the Crystal Award.”
Kathy passed away earlier this year, but she will never be forgotten. Her wonderful contributions have touched the lives of many in the East Lansing community and beyond.