On May 10, President Robert Lindgren and Provost Alisa Rosenthal announced to the assembled faculty the winners of the College’s most distinguished faculty awards.
Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award
The Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award is the College’s highest faculty honor. Established by the late Mrs. Virginia Clark Gray Backus in memory of her husband, an alumnus and former trustee of Randolph-Macon College, the honor is bestowed on a faculty member or senior administrator who has made a distinguished contribution to the College. President Lindgren solicits nominations and reviews nominees with former recipients of the distinguished award. After receiving an unusually large number of excellent and highly qualified nominations, Lindgren selected two recipients for 2022.
Dr. Traci L. Stevens, Professor of Biology
Calling her a “shining star who doesn’t shine a light upon herself,” Lindgren lauded Dr. Traci Steven’s effective teaching, significant scholarship, and extraordinary dedication to the College.
Stevens, an expert in molecular biology, joined the College in 2004. She has earned a reputation as a “course design guru” with innovative strategies that see her adjusting and adapting her coursework for students to ensure clarity in presenting challenging material. “She is known for focusing on what students need in order to be successful in her classes and for supporting them as they proceed through her courses,” President Lindgren told the faculty.
Stevens has served on the College’s Scholarship Committee, the Pre-Med Advisory Committee, and the Judicial Board. She has also served as both chair and associate chair of the Department of Biology, assuming the latter role after the first to ensure the smooth operation of the large department.
Stevens, who regularly supervises students completing undergraduate research, is herself the recipient of numerous National Science Foundation grants and has been published in a number of leading journals.
Professor Ray Berry, Professor of Studio Art
In his nearly 40 years at Randolph-Macon College, Professor Ray Berry has touched the lives of thousands of students through a discipline often outside their course of study. In announcing his award, Lindgren recalled the many alumni who have cited Berry’s teaching, and his ability to guide them through the creative process, as a memorable and transformative part of their RMC experience.
“They have also often remarked how, what they learned and how they grew, was secondary to the ostensible subject matter of his courses, for our awardee’s gift as a philosopher and stoic has left truly lasting impressions,” Lindgren said. “These alumni have often described his impact on how they think about themselves and how they view the world as deeply influential and even life-changing.”
Berry served for more than 15 years as chair of RMC’s Department of Arts, and as program chair for Studio Art for decades. He has also brought attention and acclaim to the College through his gifted painting in numerous mediums. His works have been shown in dozens of galleries, shows, and expeditions.
Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching
The Thomas Branch Award is a student-selected honor presented to faculty members. Its selection is based on the nominations and then votes of the RMC senior class.
Dr. Jill Horohoe, Visiting Assistant Professor of History
In conveying Dr. Jill Horohoe’s selection for a Thomas Branch Award, Provost Alisa Rosenthal celebrated her boundless energy and the multiple and significant ways in which she engages students in and out of the classroom.
She has been inducted as an honorary member in the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society for first-year students, and is a frequent fan on the sidelines of athletic contests and patron of the theatre and music performances in which her students participate.
“A public historian by training, it is no surprise that Dr. Horohoe has worked hard, and successfully, to engage the community–creating the history department’s Instagram page, working with students to celebrate Women’s History Month, and helping students to think carefully about the importance and function of history in everyday life,” Rosenthal observed. “Students note the positive environment of her classroom, citing in particular her ability to, ‘facilitate conversations that enable us to expand our emotions and intellectual capabilities, and to allow us to connect to and understand each other better.’”
Dr. Serge Schreiner, Dudley P. and Patricia C. Jackson Professor of Chemistry
Receiving his sixth Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching, Dr. Schreiner reaches a plateau occupied by only two other educators in the award’s long history.
A celebrated researcher himself, Schreiner is co-leader of the College’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship and a mentor to students in his own lab each summer as well as during the year. His strong mentorship is often cited as a factor in students’ desire to go on to graduate school in related fields and is likely a significant factor in RMC’s #1 ranking as the top baccalaureate institution producer of female chemistry doctorates.
In the classroom, nominating students cite his interest in students as whole persons and his relentless commitment to their understanding of the subject he loves.
Rosenthal read from a section of the nomination, quoting a student who once struggled with chemistry: “Dr. Schreiner never seemed to doubt that I could do it and as long as I kept coming back. He kept meeting with me, explaining the material, never letting me get away with simple memorization–always pushing me to make sure I understood the concept underneath the question. And because he believed I could do it, I came to believe I could do it. It turned out that we were both right about that.”
The United Methodist Church Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award
The United Methodist Exemplary Teacher Award is awarded to a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, civility, and concern for students and colleagues; commitment to value-centered education; and service to students, the institution, and the community. Its recognition comes from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church joining with Methodist-related colleges and universities to honor the service of faculty.
Dr. James McLeskey, Professor of Engineering
Dr. McLeskey joined the RMC faculty from another institution with enthusiasm for a role in which he could spend more time working with students, and this award honors his commitment to doing so as a committed teacher and as head of Randolph-Macon’s engineering program.
He designed the engineering major and shepherded it first through the College’s approval process, and now through ongoing ABET accreditation. His commitment to reaching students who would thrive in the new program is relentless, and he is an infectiously enthusiastic advocate for the program throughout the admissions process.
“He takes it upon himself to reach out personally to every prospective student who expresses an interest in engineering, and he then mentors these students from the moment they arrive on campus, assisting them with course selection, identifying internships, and mapping out plans for their careers,” explained Lindgren in announcing the award.
As a scholar, McLeskey is an expert in desalination and shares his research interest with students who have co-authored several of his published articles. He also mentors Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellows each summer. For his commitment to students, he was honored by the Higgins Academic Center as an Outstanding New Student Advocate, recognizing his commitment to his students as well as to peer mentorship and tutoring.