On May 11, 2017, the Athens County Foundation recognized Ada Woodson Adams for her lifetime of service to the community and to philanthropy by selecting her for this year’s Foster B. Cornwell award.
Adams was born in Nelsonville, Ohio, and is an alumna of Ohio University where she earned a B.S. in Education. Early in her adult life, she taught school, worked in management, and owned her own business. Adams and her late husband, Alvin (who was the first Black graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism), were also active in the Civil Rights Movement in the South. They raised 2 children in Illinois before returning to their home in Athens County.
Adams is deeply involved in preserving the history of this country, particularly the history that is too often gone untold. She is the co-founder and president of the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio, and is widely acknowledged as a historian and genealogist. Adams provided numerous guided history tours related to the Underground Railroad and worked with students at all levels with school history projects.
Adams is an active volunteer and board member. She was a co-founder of the Ohio University Community and Campus Days which brought university and communities together from surrounding counties. She was also a past board member of the Athens Foundation. She currently serves on the Athens County Public Libraries Board, the Southeast Ohio History Center Board of Directors, and works as a member of the board of directors of the Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society to save the historic site. When asked about her years of service, Adams said this “If you put yourself out there and you give to whatever cause you feel passionate about, it will come back and grab you in ways you can never imagine.”
Adams’ past awards include the Midwest Archives Conference Presidents’ Award, the Friends of Freedom Underground Railroad Society Conductor of the Year Award, the Nelson T. Gant Women of Distinction Award, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Fund Academic Achievement Award, and the UCM Social Justice Award.
The Athens County Foundation Foster B. Cornell Awards are named for the local attorney who was instrumental in the growth of the Foundation and philanthropy in Athens County. His bold gifts to six local organizations demonstrated his vision and care in providing for many generations to come. Each year individuals with similar vision and dedication to the Athens County Community are recognized by the Foundation.