In 1991, Constance (Connie) Willemsen and her son Alan presented to The Bedlington Terrier Club of America (BTCA) a perpetual trophy to honor a member of the club who has shown that they have bettered the breed and the BTCA by their actions. To win this award, the individual has to show they have 1) contributed to the BTCA, 2) that they show a determination to make the breed better, and most importantly, 3) that they possess high ethical standards. This trophy is the highest BTCA member award and honor that can be won.
Connie Willemsen, along with her father, Col. PVG Mitchell, founded the famous Rowanoaks Kennels in 1936. Col Mitchell was one of the BTCA founding members. This kennel was in existence until Connie passed away in 2003. Connie was considered by many to be the doyenne of Bedlington terriers. She was internationally known throughout the dog world and was honored in many ways. In 1941, the famous American Kennel Club (AKC) dog writer, Arthur Frederick Jones published the article in the AKC Gazette, “Rowanoaks Kennels Brings Fresh Glory to the Bedlington”.
And, in later years, the American Kennel Club took the very unusual step of retiring and protecting the Rowanoaks Kennel name forevermore. At that time, James P. Crowley, the Executive Secretary of the AKC, stated that Constance M. Willemsen had given more to purebred dogs and the Bedlington in particular, than anyone else he knew. Dog historians, aficionados and many in the highest offices in the AKC place Connie among the elite of the purebred dog world.
Connie produced well over 100 champions, won many best in shows, judged, mentored and provided a template in high ethical standards by her behavior. Connie would never think of “stacking the deck” by entering substandard dogs along with the one she hoped would win. Besides that, she never interfered with the judges or any of the other competitors. Connie won her championships the old fashion and correct way—she earned it! She served the BTCA as a leader in canine health, volunteered or was chosen for various committees, was always ready to mentor, appointed as show chair many times and elected as its 6th president. As to canine health, in the 60’s, Connie cleared her entire line of retinal dysplasia. When copper toxicosis showed up in the breed, Connie again was again at the forefront in the fight to eliminate this genetic factor. Her breeding program used only the best tested stock.
In 1992, the first Willemsen Breed Betterment Award was presented. Those that have won this coveted honor are as follows:
Adolph Kunca 1992; Jerry Schmidt 1992; Martha McVay 1993; Lois D’Ambrosio 1995; Robert Bull 1997; Acquina Meyer 1998; Grace Brewin 1999; Marjorie Hanson 2002; Vanassa Sypher 2003; Lucy Heyman 2006 and Margaret Phillips 2012.
The Award Criteria
(This award is a special perpetual award and no actions can occur to this award unless approved by 80% of the entire BTCA Board in secret ballot.)
First, the nominator and the nominee must be a present member in good standing with the Bedlington Terrier Club of America.
The nominee is a person who has made a significant contribution to the Bedlington terrier breed and whose integrity and devotion to the Bedlington terrier is evident in terms of their involvement with, but not limited to, enhancing the breed in the following capacities:
- Teaching or Mentoring and whose willingness to share correct knowledge enhances the stature of the BTCA and/or the Bedlington terrier;
- Rescue (any activity that helps to enhance the status of a homeless or neglected Bedlington);
- Involvement in the Bedlington Terrier Club of America business matters, committees, and/or club events;
- Exceptional sportsmanship in Conformation Events, Performance Events, or Companion Events;
- Improving the Bedlington terrier breed through a concentrated effort in their breeding program by use of scientific testing and selection to eliminate undesirable traits and detrimental medical conditions in the breed;
- Involvement in health issues that affect the Bedlington terrier;
- A person whose ethical standards set a positive example to the BTCA membership;
- A person whose decorum, leadership, or management skills during any Bedlington terrier related activity brings credit to our breed.
- When nominations are open, the schedule will be announced in Tassels and Tales to inform the membership.
- Any member in good standing in the BTCA can nominate any other member in good standing. If a nominee has had club charges or AKC charges that were sustained, that person is ineligible for this award.
- The nominator must submit a one or more page document stating why the person they are nominating is worthy of the award. After the nomination period has ended, the chair will announce all the nominees at one time.
- The nominee, if they accept the nomination, must submit information only to the committee chair showing why they are worthy of the award. There is no limit to what they can submit. The committee chair ensures that all selection committee members see and/or hear the same information.
- There could be an instance where a member of the committee is nominated. In that instance, the person must recuse themself. The chair then selects an alternate. If the resulting vote is a tie, the chair will vote to break the tie.
- Any member in good standing is invited to write a letter to the committee chair in support of a nominee or a letter of non-support. Within that letter, they must state their reasons for their position. This must be received within four weeks after the nominees name is announced. The chair must submit all letters to the selection committee. And these letters will be kept private outside the committee.
- The committee is made up of five members in good standing plus the chair. There are two members, selected by the president of the BTCA , and three members selected by the committee chair. The chair will attempt to select members who knew Connie Willemsen or are at least knowledgeable about Connie and her ethical position. It is hoped that all committee members have exemplary ethics.
- To minimize any political influence, committee members can discuss any nominee with other committee members as long as the discussion goes through the committee chair. No nominee discussion can occur with any other member of the club. This rule begins from the nomination process and continues to the final vote by the committee.
- All communications go through the committee chair who is responsible to see that all committee members have the same information.
- The committee members can ask questions of a candidate but must go through the committee chair.
- When all committee members have made a decision regarding the winning candidate, they submit their vote to the chair. The chair, in turn notifies the club president.
- The committee could decide no nominee is worthy of the award. Thus, no award will be given that year. In the unlikely event that that the majority of the committee feels that two candidates are equal, the committee can award two winners that year.
- The BTCA president is the holder of the main trophy and has a small brass plaque made with the winners name and date to place on the trophy. The main trophy is put on display at the site of the annual meeting.
- Any question regarding the process must be directed on to the Committee Chair.
Sally Schill, Award Chair
1397 La Rochelle Drive
Columbus, OH 43221