Virgil Masayesva spent his professional life working with Native American tribes on issues related to education, the environment, health and economic development.

Masayesva, who died in March 2005, was honored last week by the Environmental Protection Agency with the dedication of the Virgil Masayesva Environmental Learning Center in Las Vegas.

The Masayesva family and ITEP also were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Masayesva was co-founder with professor William Auberle of Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals.

The Learning Center is part of NAU and EPA’s Tribal Air Monitoring Support Center, which was established in 1999 as part of ITEP’s mission to support environmental protection of Native American natural resources.

“If you knew Virgil, you know he’d be embarrassed by the whole thing. He didn’t like to draw attention to himself,” said Mehrdad Khatibi, ITEP interim director. “But the dedication and all of the honors are well deserved because of the leadership that Virgil provided on tribal environmental issues and the good work that’s been done by ITEP for 10-plus years. In that spirit we are plugging away and continuing to follow through with Virgil’s vision and spirit to strengthen tribal environmental management capacity by providing effective education and training services.”

A graduate of the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, Masayesva earned national and international recognition for his leadership and outstanding contributions to Native peoples and the protection of indigenous cultures. He was actively involved in the development of tribal air quality and other environmental training programs.

Born in 1948 in Hotevilla, Arizona, Masayesva was a member of the Hopi Tribe and a decorated Vietnam veteran. From 1990 to 1992, he served as special assistant to then-NAU President Eugene Hughes.

Among those present at the March 22 ceremony were Aurberle, Khatibi, David Camacho, special assistant to NAU President John HaegerLaurence Gishey, director of the Institute for Native Americans; Jed Harrison, director of EPA’s Radiation and Indoor Environments National Laboratory, tribal representatives from across the country, and several members of the Masayesva family, including Virgil’s father, Victor, son Brett, and sisters Arlene and Laverne.