May 30, 2000
Volume 52, No. 34
What it's like to be an award winner
Commencement is the season of honors, awards-and heartburn. Faculty, staff and students related some past and present stories about how surprise announcements of academic honors tested their sense of humor and their nerves. No matter how distinguished the intellectual achievement, there's always room for that nagging question: "What have I done wrong?"
· Benjamin Hary, associate professor of Middle Eastern studies, winner of the Williams Teaching Award, 1998: "I was in Israel directing our program there when I got a call from Presi-dent Chace. I thought, 'What does he want from me?' I was very tentative when I heard him, but then he said, 'I have some good news for you.'"
· Patricia Owen-Smith, associate professor of psychology, Oxford College, winner of the Williams Teaching Award, 2000: "I was summoned to talk about teaching issues and then taken to the president's office. The first thing out of my mouth was, 'Please don't tell me I'm getting fired before I get my sabbatical in.' And the reply was, 'No, you're not getting fired; it's something else.'"
· Richard Freer, associate dean of faculty, Law School: "One year, the student bar association seemed particularly befuddled by the fact that they had to give a faculty teaching award. The president of the group came to my office and said, 'May I borrow this plaque?' (Freer previously had won the group's teaching award and thought he might getting another one.) Indeed they'd simply forgotten the address and name of the trophy company, so they took one of mine down to the trophy shop to get a duplicate made, that was really a bummer."
· Marion Dearing, executive assistant to the president: "It was so traumatic for people to be called and asked if they can come meet with the president. So in recent years we've switched to a more convoluted system so that they are surprised but not traumatized."
· Brant Brown, 1999 College graduate, winner of the $20,000 McMullan Award: "It was one of the biggest surprises of my life. There are some things in life that you expect and others you don't. I definitely did not expect this."