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R-MC Celebrates Honors Convocation

May 15, 2017


graduates at honors convocationRandolph-Macon College celebrated the accomplishments of faculty, students and staff at Honors Convocation on May 12, 2017. Marching with faculty, graduating seniors donned their caps and gowns and gathered in Blackwell Auditorium, R-MC Center for the Performing Arts. President Robert R. Lindgren welcomed students, staff and faculty to the event.

"It is a great honor for all of us on stage to recognize the students, and also faculty and staff who have excelled in exceptional ways this year," said Lindgren.  "Our tribute to you is also a recognition of all those who help provide this marvelous educational experience at Randolph-Macon: our faculty and staff through their daily efforts, and our alumni, parents and friends through their generous support. All of you here today, in your own unique ways, make tremendous contributions to the quality and prestige of Randolph-Macon."

Dozens of awards and scholarships were announced, and students inducted into honor societies were recognized. Among the many student awards presented were the following:
Sequoyah McGee '17 received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award; Ryan Duncan '17 received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award; and Emily Durando '17 and Carrington Birdsong Wentz '17 received The Janet Harvey Trivette & W. Proctor Harvey Jr. Endowed Student Award.

In addition, several faculty and staff members were honored: The Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching Award, The United Methodist Church Exemplary Teaching Award, The Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award, and The Marilyn J. Gibbs Dedicated Service Award were presented.

The Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching, presented by Provost William T. Franz
Recipients: Marisa Cull, Elliott Fullmer, John Thoburn

In 1969, R-MC received a gift from the Cabell Foundation as a memorial to Thomas Branch, president of Merchant’s Bank, a member of the Board of Trustees from 1846-1883, and one of the principal figures responsible for the college’s relocation from Boydton, Virginia to Ashland. The gift established the Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award is given annually, and the recipient is selected by the students of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Honors Program.

Marisa Cull (English) joined the faculty in 2008. She earned her B.A. from Capital University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

"Professor Cull is the author of Shakespeare's Princes of Wales, a book that has garnered incredible positive review, leading to nominations for the Renaissance Society of America's Phyllis Goodhart Gordon Book Prize and the Shakespeare's Globe Prize for Best First Book," said Franz. "A participant in workshops at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Professor Cull has also taken students on a travel course experience to the Center, enabling them to experience Shakespearean presentations in the setting of the Blackfriars Playhouse there. She is also admired for her literature classes on campus, where she excites students about topics as varied as masculinity in literature, King Arthur, and Shakespearean England. Please join me in congratulating Professor Cull."

Elliott Fullmer (political science) joined the faculty in 2013. He earned his B.S. from Villanova University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Georgetown University.

"Among his many innovative initiatives, Professor Fullmer has crafted a travel course to New Hampshire, enabling Randolph-Macon students to participate in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in 2016, where the class attended a dozen events with presidential candidates throughout New Hampshire, ultimately meeting eight of the candidates, along with a former president, several prominent media figures, and high-ranking state party officials," said Franz. "Author of four peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter, Professor Fullmer leads the college’s Washington initiative. Highly regarded for his classroom teaching and inspiring approaches, Professor Fullmer is a most worthy recipient of this award."

John Thoburn (chemistry) joined the faculty in 2003. He earned his B.S. from Haverford College and his M.S. and Ph.D. from University of California.

"Professor Thoburn is now a two-time winner of the Thomas Branch award, having been selected previously in 2015," said Franz. "He is certainly a most worthy recipient again. While he is primarily assigned to teaching Organic Chemistry, something he does with great zeal and creative approaches, he has enriched our community by also offering classes on Irish Folk Dancing and Juggling. He juggles not only balls and pins, but his classroom instruction, mentoring of five current student research projects, his own research agenda, and leadership of the Committee on Faculty Development. Please join me in congratulating, Professor Thoburn."

The United Methodist Church Exemplary Teaching Award, presented by President Lindgren
Recipient: Kristen Klaaren

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church, jointly with R-MC, annually recognizes a professor who exemplifies teaching excellence, civility, concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution, the community and church.

Kristen Klaaren (psychology) joined the faculty in 1994. She earned her B.A. from Hope College, her M.A. from University of Iowa and her Ph.D. from University of Virginia.

"Professor Klaaren is widely respected for her excellence in teaching, professional scholarship and service to the college," said Lindgren. "She is a 'master teacher,' consistently praised for her engaging teaching style and for her wonderful mentorship of our students. It is a testament to her skill and ingenuity that her teaching, student mentoring and research have intersected in such meaningful ways. Professor Klaaren has created enlightening travel courses that focus on privilege and discrimination in South Africa that our students have described to me as deeply transformative."

During her tenure at R-MC, Klaaren has designed and taught more than 17 unique courses across the psychology curriculum. She has twice been honored with the Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching, in 1998 and 2000.

Lindgren continued, "Impressively, she has done all this while also providing very important service to the college. She has been a significant contributor to the Strategic Planning Committee since its inception, and her excellent leadership also includes her service as chair of the Psychology Department." Klaaren has authored several recent and highly regarded papers and presentations at conferences around the United States and internationally.

"Dedicated to our students, passionate about her teaching and scholarship, and deeply respected by her colleagues and our students, Professor Klaaren is an invaluable member of our community," said Lindgren.

The Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Administrator Award, presented by President Lindgren
Recipient: Bruce Torrence
The Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award was established by Mrs. Virginia Clark Gray Backus in memory of her husband, an alumnus and former trustee of R-MC. Although called the Distinguished Professor Award, this prize was established to honor the faculty member or senior administrator selected by the president as the person who has made a distinguished contribution to the college.

Bruce Torrence (mathematics), the Dorothy and Muscoe Garnett Professor of Mathematics, joined the faculty in 1993. He earned his B.A. from Tufts University, his M.A. from University of Maryland and his Ph.D. from University of Virginia.

"Professor Torrence's 24 years of dedicated service to the college, including a remarkable 18 years as department chair, highlight a level of engagement with our students, his faculty colleagues, and with the college that is extraordinary," said Lindgren. "In a department that prides itself on rich offerings and very demanding courses, his patient and effective teaching style receives consistent praise from students and his colleagues for its clarity, innovation and creativity."

Lindgren lauded Torrence's technical and writing skills, as well as his ability to communicate complicated concepts in a fun, engaging way.

"The positive impact of Professor Torrence's teaching resonates across our campus, as the mathematics department touches more students at Randolph-Macon than any other," said Lindgren. "In addition to their own majors, faculty in mathematics also teach multiple general education courses, as well as courses to students majoring in chemistry, physics, economics, business and accounting. Professor Torrence manages all of this with excellence and grace."

Lindgren told the audience that mathematics faculty describe Torrence as being a model department leader and teacher who inspires and encourages others with kindness, gentle humor, and undivided attention.

"He is also a tremendously successful scholar, authoring or coauthoring over 30 papers, and a very well-regarded book that is now approaching its third edition," said Lindgren. "Professor Torrence has also served as one of the two editors-in-chief of Math Horizons, a quarterly publication for undergraduates, and his writing has also been honored by its selection for publishing in two editions of The Best Writing in Mathematics. His commendable leadership, outstanding teaching, scholarship and service, and his friendly demeanor make him a treasured colleague and professor."

The Marilyn J. Gibbs Dedicated Service Award, presented by Jen Thompson, Executive Assistant to the President
Recipient: Alana Davis

This award was created by a generous gift from former Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Steven Nape and his wife Diane. This award is given annually to a staff member for outstanding service to and support of the mission of the college. The award is named in honor of Marilyn J. Gibbs, whose 18 years of dedicated service to the college as assistant professor of sociology and then registrar exemplified the highest ideals embodied in the college’s mission.

Alana Davis (registrar) joined the staff in 2003. She earned her B.S from College of William and Mary and her M.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University.

"There are few staff members who play a more critical role in each and every one of our students' academic careers than Alana Davis," said Thompson. "Three years ago, when I began working at the college, I met her on my second day. I was immediately impressed by her incredible, encyclopedic knowledge. I had many questions about our curriculum, academic programs and credits, degree requirements, and student progress, and she was always able to answer them. Since then, I would estimate that I have reached out to her 200 times, maybe even more, and every time, she provides precise information anchored by very sound judgment."

Thompson continued, "These are among the great qualities for which Alana is known. And they have made her a respected go-to person for students, faculty and staff alike. She meets with hundreds of students and their families to advise and support them. She also personally reviews and approves every student’s application for graduation by tirelessly comparing their applications to their transcripts to the course catalog, line by line. Behind her enormous efforts is the way she conducts herself: with compassion, kindness and creativity. On several occasions, she is the person our seniors have asked to hood them at Commencement. Our faculty also hold her in high esteem, and she serves on two faculty policy committees, the Committee on the Curriculum and the Committee on Admissions, Credits and Academic Status of Students. All of her incredible gifts are underscored by a deep sense of integrity and love for Randolph-Macon."

During Honors Convocation, the R-MC Choir, under the direction of Music Professor Chris Ryder, sang several songs, and ended with the singing of the alma mater. Chaplain Kendra Grimes followed with the Benediction.