SBMM is very proud to announce that Don Barthelmess—President of the Museum’s Board of Directors and Santa Barbara City College’s Marine Diving Technology Professor Emeritus—has been elected by the Academy of Underwater Arts & Science (AUAS) to receive the 2020 NOGI Award for his contributions to Sports and Education. The NOGI award, considered one of the top career recognition awards in the nation’s diving industry, has been presented annually since 1960. NOGI stands for New Orleans Grand Isle, which is where the award began. Receipt of the AUAS NOGI Award elevates the recipient from regional acclaim to national and international recognition. Recipients from countries such as France, Austria, Australia, the United Kingdom, and others, signify the international stature and significance of the Award.
With his receipt of this award, Don – who was also instrumental in the founding of SBMM – joins a distinguished company of other local NOGI recipients including: James Cameron, Ernie Brooks, Ed Stetson, Bev Morgan, Lad Handelman, Hilary Hauser, Bob Kirby, Jean Michel Cousteau, and Leslie Leaney, among others. As James Cameron commented on receiving his NOGI award, “Being a recipient of a NOGI is the underwater equivalent of winning an Oscar, except a lot harder.”
Don has been diving professionally for 40 years, trained commercial and recreational divers for over 30 years, and has mentored hundreds of divers who have been able to make diving a career. The program that Don helped create at SBCC is considered by many to be the best commercial diving program in the United States. He also co-authored the American National Standard in 1995 for commercial diving while serving on the non-profit board of the Association of Commercial Diving Educators (ACDE) for 25 years. Working with government agencies and industry, he created the formal American National Standard (ANSI) commercial diver certification program that exists today.
Don has also been an important friend to SBMM from its very beginning and was instrumental in bringing both the Purisima diving lockout bell and the Dan Wilson diving helmet to the Museum. Further, as President of the Board of Directors, Don has been critical to SBMM’s recent application for accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums.