‘The best in teaching and learning’

University President Dale Knobel addresses a filled Swasey Chapel during the college’s annual Academic Awards Convocation.

Academic Awards Convocation always gets us. Maybe it’s the springtime stroll along Chapel Walk to Swasey, with bells tolling brightly. Or maybe it’s the weather, which by some meteorological happenstance tends to be extra shiny for this particular event. Or maybe it’s the pure pleasure of recognizing good work—very, very good work, by students and faculty alike.

The faculty, staff and trustees were robed for the occasion. They were led into the chapel by faculty marshals John Jackson, Gregg Parini, Doug Spieles and Cynthia Turnbull, with an organ processional played by Kevin Wines. And the students, especially the seniors, showed up in droves to learn who among them would graduate with a President’s Medal or be recognized for other superior achievement, and which of their professors would be honored for teaching excellence.

“This day, we celebrate the best in teaching and learning,” President Dale Knobel said, and he set the tone for the event by discussing higher education in the context of having the ability to change your mind. “Evidence is not settled but continually accumulates, is reshuffled, and can be newly understood,” he said. Others process the same evidence and draw a different conclusion. In this we have the opportunity to look at something differently. “We aspire to educate leaders at Denison—for communities and organizations alike,” he said, noting that a leader never stops listening. “I hope your experience at Denison—as learner or teacher—has periodically caused you to change your mind. And, when the reasons are right, I hope you’ll find you change it again and again.”

Knobel then presented an endowed chair and two professorships to Professor of Economics Ted Burczak (the Beverly Fleischmann Endowed Professor); Associate Professor of International Studies and Women’s Studies Isis Nusair (the Judy Gentili Chair in International Studies); and Associate Professor of English Fred Porcheddu (the Dr. Viola K. Kleindienst Professor).

Associate Provost Toni King stands with 2012 President’s Medal winners, from left, Steven Profitt, Jessica Wilson, Nicki Jimenez, and Meg Gaertner.

In the next moment, Burczak learned that he had another reason to be center stage, when Provost Brad Bateman announced that the economics professor also was being honored with the Charles A. Brickman Teaching Excellence Award, given each year to a faculty member who is masterful in the profession, one who is a model of dedication to students and to student learning.

Associate Professor of Biology Jeff Thompson, who is president of Phi Beta Kappa’s Theta chapter of Ohio, recognized the profound academic achievement of Phi Beta Kappa inductees, including a surprise honorary induction for Professor of History Don Schilling.

Bateman recognized those students who have submitted a senior thesis or senior creative project and also several special awards, including a Goldwater Scholarship in Science and Education for Nathaniel Kell ’13 (Arlington, Ohio); a Critical Language Scholarship to India for Chelsea McGill ’12 (Hamilton, Ohio); a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic for Marissa Ortiz ’12 (Clarkston, Mich.); The Davis Project for Peace 2012 for Makorobondo Kamongwa “Dee” Salukombo ’12 (Lakewood, Ohio); and a United Negro College Fund/Merck Science Research Scholarship for Faith Simunyu ’13 (Carmel, Ind.).

And in a moment that is considered a high point every year, the Class of 2012 President’s Medal recipients were announced by Linda Krumholz, associate professor of English and chair of the faculty. Honored for stellar achievement, making especially good use of their undergraduate experience, and contributing substantially to the community were Steven Fred Profitt (Carlisle, Ohio); Jessica Ann Wilson (Grand Rapids, Mich.); Nicole Gabriela Jimenez (Foxboro, Mass.); and Mary Eileen “Meg” Gaertner (Dallas, Texas).

Convocation music included Lindsay Martin ’13 (Wadsworth, Ohio) on the chapel bells; Jolyn Tsai ’13 (Dublin, Ohio) performing Chopin’s Berceuse, Op. 57; and Maureen “Molly” Coyne ’12 (Smyrna, Ga.) and Alexa Dorris ’12 (Indianapolis, Ind.) leading the signing of the alma mater, “To Denison.”

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