The festive and tradition-laden presentations of major faculty awards at commencement is inspiring to watch for many Emory community members.
The time-honored process of an award recipient all decked out in academic regalia approaching the commencement stage for the reading of a profoundly worded award citation and presentation of an ornate and hefty plaque, goes so smoothly each year that it tends to obscure the weeks of toil undertaken by faculty, administrators and alumni to arrive at a final choice to receive the award.
Faculty recognition programs at Emory acknowledge a variety of areas of achievement: teaching, research, community leadership and service to the University. The longstanding award programs that honor faculty for these endeavors include the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, the Thomas Jefferson Award and the Emory Williams Teaching Awards.
Established at Emory in 1981 by the Board of Higher Education of the United Methodist Church, the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award is presented to a faculty member for: demonstration of exceptional teaching; recognized concern for students and colleagues and sensitivity to the mission of the church-related university; a record of significant contributions to the scholarly life of the University; and commitment to high standards of professional and personal life.
Nominations for the award are solicited from the deans, and a committee of former recipients considers the nominations and selects a recipient.
Richard Levinson, associate professor in the School of Public Health, was University Scholar/Teacher of the Year in 1993 and chaired the committee that selected the 1995 recipient. The award, Levinson said, "reminds me of who we are here, of our need to bring students and teaching into our scholarship. We have dual professional roles as teachers and scholars. The award is a symbol of that value and may reinforce the message, to the extent that people are aware of it."
"The University and the College honor teaching and other faculty achievements in various ways," said Harvey Klehr, Dobbs Professor of Political Science and 1995 Scholar/Teacher of the Year. "I think it's important to do that for faculty morale. The Scholar/ Teacher award means an awful lot to me, because it recognizes that I put a lot of effort into my teaching and that I take it very seriously."
"This is a truly meaningful award," said Jonas Shulman, professor and executive associate dean in the medical school and 1993 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award. "Part of the strength of this award is that it is given for the totality of one's contributions. I spend many hours working with students one on one. That's the kind of activity that doesn't bring in overhead, or it's unclear what the impact is on the educational process. But it was nice to be recognized for doing that for 25 years."
Shulman said the Thomas Jefferson Award is one way that Emory has of honoring the small group of faculty and administrators who feel a deep devotion to the University and have stuck with it through both good and bad times.
First given in 1962, the Thomas Jefferson Award is presented to a member of the faculty or administration in recognition of personal and professional integrity as well as distinguished service in the areas of: teaching; research and scholarship; non-academic accomplishments with students; University advancement and development in relation to the entire University or an area, school or division; and community or educational service on the local, state or national level.
The Robert Earl McConnell Foundation, the original donor for the award, specified that the personal and professional qualities of the recipient "should be as nearly as possible those which we believe Jefferson would have considered essential to the intellectual, social and political advancement of society."
Faculty and staff who wish to submit nominations for the 1996 Thomas Jefferson Award may do so via e-mail at Thomas_Jefferson_Award@ emory.edu or on the World Wide Web at http://www. cc.emory.edu/PROVOST/jefferson.html.
Unlike the Thomas Jefferson and Scholar/Teacher awards, nominees for the Emory Williams Awards for Excellence in Teaching are chosen by alumni of two recently graduated classes in Emory College and one of the professional schools. The alumni are asked to nominate faculty members who most impressed them with the substance of what they taught and the organization and interest with which they conveyed their subject matter. A committee of recent award recipients and three younger alumni meet to certify the results of the alumni balloting.
Three awards are given to Emory College faculty in the areas of humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. One award is given to a faculty member in one of the professional schools on an annual rotating basis. Recipients from the 10 years prior to the award year are not eligible. Each award carries a $2,000 prize.
Pamela Hall, associate professor of philosophy and Women's Studies and 1992 award recipient in the humanities, said the fact that recent alumni select the Emory Williams award recipients makes the honor especially significant. "Teaching can be a very private business," Hall explained. "It's not something that your peers may know about except perhaps anecdotally, or be able to recognize. What meant the most to me about receiving the award is that I was nominated by students from years past."
Hall believes the Emory Williams awards, first given in 1972, are a critical part of Emory's efforts as a nationally recognized research university to value and reward excellent teaching. "Beyond our commitment to fine research, we also have a moral obligation to support good teaching," she said.
Nominations for the Emory Williams Teaching awards are being accepted via e-mail at Emory_Williams_Awards@emory.edu and on the World Wide Web at http://www.cc.emory.edu/ PROVOST/award.html.