for National Geographic News
Two days after the terrorist attacks in the United States last year, as smoke still swirled over the Pentagon, a grieving National Geographic Society moved to honor two popular and highly dedicated employees who were among the thousands of people who died in the national tragedy.
To honor the memory and legacy of Joe Ferguson, assistant director of the Geography Education Outreach Program, and Ann Judge, long-time director of the travel office, the Society established a fund dedicated to increasing global understanding through geography education.
Ferguson and Judge were killed on board American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon when it was hijacked shortly after takeoff.
Barbara Chow, director of the National Geographic Education Foundation, said interest in establishing the fund arose within hours after the devastating events of September 11. "It was almost a grassroots effort within National Geographic because our employees wanted to honor Ann and Joe," she said.
Response to the Ferguson/Judge Fund has been outstanding, she noted. Hundreds of donations, each one matched by the National Geographic, have totaled more than $400,000. "We've had tremendous support," said Chow.
At a memorial service held September 11 at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., officials said the Society would begin matching all donations to the Ferguson/Judge Fund two to one.
Judge and Ferguson had been en route to the West Coast, accompanying three teachers and three sixth-grade D.C. students headed to an educational trip in California.
The students and teachersRodney Dickens and his teacher James Debeuneure of Ketcham Elementary School, Asia Cottom and teacher Sarah Clark of Backus Middle School, and Bernard Brown and teacher Hilda Taylor of Leckie Elementary Schoolhad been selected to participate in a special program at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, California. The project is part of a National Geographic-funded marine research project known as Sustainable Seas Expeditions.
Much Respect and Affection
The chairman of National Geographic's Board of Trustees, Gilbert Grosvenor, said many people agreed from the start that a fund to provide educational opportunities for students and teachers was a fitting tribute to Ferguson and Judge. "It is more important today than ever to understand the worlddifferent cultures, different religions, different peoplesand that's what Joe and Ann were all about."
The pair's dedication to geography education, exemplified by their presence on the trip to the West Coast, earned them the respect and affection of thousands of students, teachers, and colleagues.