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Alva Hughes ’81 Named the Macon and Joan Brock Professor of Psychology

May 30, 2017


Alva Hughes and Mr. and Mrs. BrockThe Macon and Joan Brock Professorship of Psychology was awarded to Randolph-Macon College Professor Alva T. Hughes '81 on May 26, 2017. The event, which took place in the McGraw-Page Library, was attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni, Macon F. Brock Jr. '64 and Joan Brock, and Hughes' sister, Iantha Hughes, and nephew, Tilmon Parker.

The Macon and Joan Brock Professorship of Psychology, established in 2008 by Macon F. Brock Jr. '64 and his wife, Joan Brock, recognizes a senior member of the Psychology Department for exemplary teaching and scholarship. Former R-MC Professor Kelly Lambert held the Macon and Joan Brock Professorship of Psychology from 2008-2016.

Teaching, Scholarship, Service
Alan Rashkind, chair of the R-MC Board of Trustees, welcomed attendees to the installation ceremony, and R-MC President Robert R. Lindgren congratulated Hughes on her professorship.

"Professor Hughes, it is my great pleasure to congratulate you on this most impressive distinction," said Lindgren.  "Your teaching, scholarship and service, together with your exceptional role as a mentor to students and faculty within your department and throughout the college, eminently qualify you for this distinguished Randolph-Macon professorship. On behalf of the Randolph-Macon community, congratulations."

Provost William T. Franz spoke of Hughes' dedication to R-MC and her commitment to her students and colleagues.

"As I reflect on working with Alva these past few decades, I can certainly attest that relationships still matter most to her," said Franz. "Whether it is her professional studies into the relationships between people and animals, or her careful mentorship of her students, or her crafting of relationships between our students and the 'guest students' from her courses, or the compassionate yet professional way she handled herself on the Committee on the Faculty, or the special relationships she enjoys with colleagues, relationships—those very dear interactions that make this college special—have been at the core of Alva's everyday work."

Macon Brock told the audience that faculty and staff are vital to the college's sense of community.

"It's not the buildings, but the people who make this place so special," he said.

From Undergraduate to Dedicated Professor
Hughes thanked the Brocks and shared with the crowd her thoughts on her experiences at R-MC throughout the years.

"Randolph-Macon has been an important part of my life for many years—since I first came to campus in 1977," she said. "As one of very few African Americans on campus at the time, R-MC taught me to appreciate differences in a non-trivial way. I learned how to listen to others with very different backgrounds and attitudes. How to develop real friendships with people who sometimes held beliefs that I found incomprehensible. I don't mean to suggest that R-MC always got it right, or that there weren't some difficult times. We are part of a larger culture, and issues of race, and class, and a variety of differences continue to be a challenge in that wider culture, but I have found that both as a student and as a faculty member there have been opportunities for dialogue about difficult issues and support for me as a member of the community."

She continued, "I came to R-MC wanting to spend my life in a laboratory, and I left wanting to teach at a small liberal arts college. The teacher-scholar model that is at the core of R-MC changed me. My aspiration was to teach at a place as much like Randolph-Macon as possible. I am eternally grateful to Terry Winegar, Carol Hughes and other faculty and administration who made it possible for me to teach not just at a place like R-MC but actually at R-MC."

Hughes shared that her relationships with alumni, colleagues and students are enormously important to her.

"Friends I met as an undergraduate are still among the closest, faculty who helped me to move gracefully from student to colleague are still among the most respected, and students who have moved from students to colleagues are among those who bring me the most pride," she said. "I'm part of an amazing faculty. As the semester ends, I am reminded that although not every day, and perhaps not with every student, sometimes what we do can make a difference. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this faculty and to do work that can make a difference."

Following Hughes' remarks, Emily Nicholson '18 led the crowd in singing the alma mater.

Alva T. Hughes '81
Hughes majored in psychology and graduated from R-MC in 1981. She was a National Merit Scholar at R-MC, a Federal Junior Fellow of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and a National Science Foundation Junior Fellow. She was elected to the Omicron Delta Kappa fraternity, the national leadership society. Following her graduation, she earned an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park where she earned the Jack Bartlett Award for excellence in dissertation design in 1987. Hughes was appointed as assistant professor of psychology at Manhattanville College where she served for three years before joining the faculty at R-MC 1991. She was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1996 and to the rank of professor in 2012.

Hughes was a recipient of the United Methodist Church Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2010. To support her research, she has received five grants from the Walter W. Craigie Teaching and Research Endowment as well as three awards from the Rashkind Faculty Endowment.

Hughes' research specializes in cognition in college students, human-animal interactions, and cognition in dogs. Most recently she was involved in a project to study stress levels in dogs and handlers who are involved in crisis therapy work. In this work, she has collaborated with HOPE AACR, and she has been involved with a staged crisis drill at Reagan National Airport. Results of the human-animal interaction research were presented at an international conference in Padua, Italy. Her research collaborations have led to professional presentations or publications with more than 25 undergraduates.

A gifted teacher, Hughes offers several courses in the Psychology Department, especially in the areas of cognitive psychology and the animal mind. She was a mainstay in two first-year programs, offering service learning courses with Philosophy Professor Donna Turney. Service learning has been a passion for Hughes. She has been a Service Fellow and offered a travel course to Brazil with a service component. Creative in the classroom, she stimulates student scholarship with innovative assignments ranging from interviews with psychologists to evaluating the veracity of ideas students encounter.

About Macon and Joan Brock
Throughout the years, Macon F. Brock Jr. '64 and his wife, Joan Brock, have been generous supporters of the college. The Brock Sports and Recreation Center, the Brock Residence Hall in Thomas Branch, and renovations to Fox and Haley Halls were all made possible with the help of the Brocks. In addition, the Brocks supported the construction of the Brock Commons student center.

Brock graduated from R-MC in 1964 with a B.A. in Latin. He went on to Quantico, Virginia for Marine Corps Officer training, served in Vietnam and was a special agent with the United States Naval Intelligence at the Norfolk Naval Station before co-founding K and K Toys and Dollar Tree, Inc. He served on the R-MC Board of Trustees from 1992 to 2009 and as its chair from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former member of the college's Board of Associates. In 2009 he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from R-MC.

Brock served as chairman of R-MC's capital campaign, Building Extraordinary, a $125 million initiative. In addition to the establishing the Macon and Joan Brock Professorship of Psychology, the Brocks have provided generous and substantial funding to support a host of priorities at R-MC, including numerous capital projects, scholarship assistance for students and new academic initiatives.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center, at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is named in the Brocks' honor and is one of the most energy efficient buildings in the world.

In 2014, the Brocks were awarded the Council of Independent Colleges Award for Philanthropy. In 2015 the CIVIC Leadership Institute presented the Brocks with the Darden Award for Individual Leadership.