The University of Dallas’ own Sybil and Lyle Novinski were honored by the City of Irving with the High Spirited Citizen Award April 18.
The award recognizes the unsung heroes of the wider community who have been models of civic engagement and volunteerism.
Maura Gast, Executive Director of the Irving Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, wrote in an email that “when the nomination came in, we were all certain they would have long ago received the award. We were stunned to realize they had never been nominated.”
The pair is well-known by the UD community for the central role they played in the university’s founding, but their contributions to the city of Irving may be less widely-recognized.
Since they first arrived to work at UD in 1960, they have directly contributed to developing what have now become central institutions at UD and in Irving: UD’s art department, the Cowan-Blakely Memorial Library and the Church of the Incarnation.
Sybil Novinski noted that UD’s art department “made important contributions to the cultural life of the rapidly growing city,” since it predated the Irving Arts Center.
Lyle Novinski was instrumental in developing the art department.
Before he arrived, UD had only one art professor, Rev. Phillip Seitz, wrote archivist Shelley Gayler-Smith. With the addition of Lyle Novinski and Heri Bartscht in 1960, the official Department of Art was formed.
Sibyl Novinski also noted that the library has consistently been an asset to the Irving community, since it is open to local high school students. In various years, it has also hosted “a thriving community education program which invited the city to special courses, as well as a regular newsletter that reminded the community of University lectures, plays, exhibits, and athletic events.”
Gayler-Smith said Sybil Novinski started the university archives in 2005 and also wrote a history of the university, entitled “Fifty Years of Vision & Courage.”
The Church of the Incarnation has also provided Irving residents with a worship space and community, and it has encouraged interaction between students and residents through their involvement in parish music and campus ministry; the couple also sings in the choir.
Lyle Novinski serves as the liturgical consultant for the Church of the Incarnation, and also designed the baptismal font and altar, Gayler-Smith wrote.
Sybil Novinski also noted that Irving’s symphony began, at least in part, at UD.
She expressed hope that the university community can continue to develop a relationship with the City of Irving.
“I wish we did more about teaching our students about this combined history” between Irving and the University of Dallas, Sybil Novinski said.
“Our students could volunteer at Irving Cares and participate in Keep Irving Beautiful days, or keep a calendar in Student Government for other events in the Irving and Las Colinas area, such as Whistle Stop.”