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2018 Michael Shall Volunteer Award: Mark Kennedy

by OrigamiUSA Board of Directors

Begun in 1995, the Michael Shall Volunteer Recognition Award is given to specific dedicated volunteers for extraordinary service to OrigamiUSA, in the spirit of Michael’s volunteerism. Michael believed that "origami is for anyone, anywhere, any time!" and the best way to spread the joy of origami was by volunteering. Mark Kennedy was a volunteer, a teacher and an ambassador for OrigamiUSA. The Board of Directors was pleased to give him the Michael Shall Volunteer Recognition Award in 2018 shortly before he passed away. The Board is deeply saddened by his loss. This tribute was read to Mark during his last days.

Michael Shall Volunteer Recognition Award to Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy is known around the world for his indomitable enthusiasm for origami and generous spirit. Almost everyone who has met him in person is the proud owner of one of his glossy folded pins for which he is so famous, many given gratis by Mark as a sign of origami community friendship. Mark and his wife, Arlene Gorchov, have been a link especially between European and American folders. They love traveling to overseas conventions, where they found and shared so many new models, books and papers, and even more importantly, new friends. They also have gone out of their way to welcome foreign visitors to the US, including those arriving in New York for OrigamiUSA Annual Convention. In addition to picking visitors up at the airport, and making sure they get settled in properly and know where to eat, Mark and Arlene have regularly invited international visitors and many, many others, to their home after convention for an event that has come to be known as “Fold and Feed.”

Mark is a lifelong paperfolder, having discovered origami when he was watching a TV show as a child and fell in love with it. As he folded and increased his personal skills, he found that he loved to share his origami world. Eventually he met Lillian Oppenheimer and joined her regular get-togethers where he met fanatical folders of all sorts --- creators and passionate origami artists. It became clear that he had an amazing ability to remember almost every model he learned (as well as every joke), which gave him a certain freedom when teaching to combine comedy and charm with the clear recital of steps. He was definitely a teacher in the tradition of Michael Shall, and was eager to teach anyone and everyone. Mark was one of the earliest members of The Friends of The Origami Center of America, OrigamiUSA’s predecessor. He treasured his time at Lillian’s monthly sessions so much that when the opportunity came along to facilitate the Folding Sundays at the American Museum of Natural History, he considered it an honor. Mark and Arlene continue to facilitate Folding Sundays to this day.

Mark has served in other official capacities for OrigamiUSA, including being on the Board of Directors from 1990 to 1996 and co-chairing the Business Committee. As such he reviewed new books and papers, and brought many new items to the committee’s attention. He taught at every Annual Convention, every Pacific Coast OrigamiUSA Convention, many Special Sessions and various other conventions in the US and abroad. Mark and Arlene established a community origami group in their home area, and their twice-yearly “Fold and Feed” events at their Pennsylvania home are warm, casual, intense, supportive environments for new and experienced folders. Mark sells his pins and magnets, but is far more likely to give them away. He has high regard for the rights of creators, and has formed strong bonds with many of them. Underlying it all, he has always spread his love of origami. He gives generously of his time, whether for help needed in any way or to teach. In 2007 Mark was honored with the OrigamiUSA Ranana Benjamin Award for Teaching.

For all of these reasons, the OrigamiUSA Board of Directors has voted to give Mark Kennedy the Michael Shall Volunteer Recognition Award, our highest honor.