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Michael Fenster Named Watts Professor of Science

Oct 08, 2012

Professor Michael FensterRandolph-Macon College President Robert R. Lindgren and Provost William T. Franz are pleased to announce that Michael S. Fenster, Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies, is the new Stephen H. Watts Professor of Science. Fenster was invested in the Watts Endowed Professorship at a ceremony on Friday, October 19, 2012 in the McGraw-Page Library.

The Stephen H. Watts Professorship in Science was established in 1979 in memory of and gratitude to Dr. Stephen Hurt Watts, a member of the Class of 1896 who attended Randolph-Macon College and the University of Virginia prior to earning his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University. The Watts Professorship recognizes and honors a distinguished faculty member from the natural sciences whose teaching, scholarship and service bring honor and distinction to Randolph-Macon College.

“Professor Fenster is a gifted scholar who clearly loves what he does,” says R-MC President Robert R. Lindgren. “He exemplifies the ‘learning by doing’ methodology that is intrinsic to the liberal arts. Sit in on one of his classes, or tag along on his travels with students to the Eastern Shore to study the impact of humans on the ecosystem. You’ll see firsthand a mentor who is thrilled to share with students the joy of discovery.”

Fenster came to Randolph-Macon for a year as a visiting assistant professor in 1998 and joined the faculty in 2000. He was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 2005 and to the rank of professor in 2010. He has served as the director of the Environmental Studies program since 2006. He earned his B.S. in environmental geology from the University of Mississippi, his master’s degree in geology from the same institution, and his Ph.D. in geology from Boston University.

Fenster’s research specializes in the morphodynamic changes to beaches and tidal inlets along coastal barriers, especially those changes caused by storms and climate change. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Coastal Research, as well as a number of professional societies, including the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, the Estuarine Research Federation, and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. He was invited to serve on a national panel to assess the state of the science for assessing and mapping coastal hazards through the United States Geologic Survey’s Coastal & Marine Geology Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Data Center. Most recently, he served as chair of a national technical-review team that evaluated NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility’s new Shoreline Restoration and Infrastructure Protection Program.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Physics William T. Franz says, “The intent of this award is to recognize a distinguished faculty member whose service brings honor and distinction to Randolph-Macon College. Professor Fenster exemplifies that description and takes it to a whole new level. He is a tireless advocate for the liberal arts, for our mission and is truly deserving of this accolade.”

Fenster has twice traveled with his students to Iceland in conjunction with “The Geology of Iceland: A Seam on the Coat of the World.” The course gives students the opportunity to examine, analyze and map individual volcanic and glacial features as well as landscape features produced by the interaction of fire, ice and the ocean.

Fenster was twice named a finalist for the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award, and he was honored with the United Methodist Church Exemplary Teaching Award by Randolph-Macon College in 2008.

Previous holders of the Watts Professorship were Professors Wallace Martin (biology) and Schuyler Miller (chemistry, geology).

Watts Professorship Ceremony Photo Gallery