Mike Voorhies received the Henry Fonda Award from the Nebraska Tourism Commission on Oct. 24. The award recognizes leadership, vision and dedication to the tourism industry.
Sandy Mosel, an assistant at Ashfall, was also honored during the Nebraska Travel Conference in Norfolk. She received the 2013 Certificate for Exceptional Frontline Customer Service.
Voorhies is professor emeritus in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and curator emeritus in the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History. The award honors Voorhies’ discovery, research and help in developing Nebraska’s Ashfall Fossil Beds into a premier mammal fossil site.
Asfhfall is a branch of the NU State Museum. The site shows preserved fossil skeletons of rhinos, horses, camels, turtles, snakes and birds in their exact death positions around an ancient watering hole. The creatures died about 12 million years ago after a great volcanic eruption in what is now southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over the flat, savannah-like grasslands of northeastern Nebraska.
Voorhies discovered a fossil baby rhino skull in 1971 near Orchard, Neb. The find led to initial research excavations at the Ashfall site. The original dig received support from National Geographic.
Voorhies was instrumental in the planning and final development of creating the Ashfall site. The site was dedicated as a Nebraska state park in 1991. Since then Voorhies has worked with the State Museum and the University of Nebraska Foundation to secure additional major support for new Ashfall facilities, including the greatly expanded Hubbard Rhino Barn that protects the fossil bed for ongoing excavations.
Voorhies also helped to obtain National Natural Landmark status for Ashfall which was granted in 2006.
Mosel has worked at Ashfall ever since the park opened in 1991. The Frontline Customer Service honor recognizes exceptional employees those who work or volunteer in tourism attractions of all types across Nebraska.