Randolph-Macon College President Robert R. Lindgren and Provost Alisa J. Rosenthal have announced the winners of the College’s most distinguished awards for faculty and staff.
Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award
The Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award is the College’s highest faculty honor. Established by the late 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.
Lauren C. Bell, James L. Miller Professor of Political Science
President Lindgren lauded Dr. Lauren Bell as a “triple threat,” citing her outstanding influence as a teacher and mentor, as a scholar, and in service to the College.
Bell joined the RMC faculty in 1999 in the Department of Political Science. Her work with students has earned her the Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching three times. In addition to her classes, she regularly serves as a SURF advisor, leads study abroad trips, and includes students in her research as a co-author for books and papers.
“Her effective teaching and mentoring go well beyond the corners of our campus, as I have interacted with countless alumni who cite her as their most significant professor, and then describe an ongoing, influential relationship with her,” Lindgren said.
Bell has authored or co-authored five books and many articles in top peer-reviewed political science journals and law reviews, spanning diverse topics in the areas of the United States Congress, politics, and the Supreme Court. She is often sought out by local and national news media for comment on legislative and political topics.
Significantly, Bell has also been a key administrator for Academic Affairs, serving as the College’s Associate Dean from 2007 until 2014, when she was then named Dean of Academic Affairs, a role in which she served until 2022. Her accomplishments in that post include her leadership in improving RMC’s academic support and retention rates, for which she was honored with the national Outstanding First Year Advocate Award in 2016.
Paul Davies, Vice President of Administration and Finance
Paul Davies has served as RMC’s chief financial officer since 2010, overseeing a transformation of campus that has included the construction and renovation of over $100 million in facilities.
His administrative responsibilities are wide-ranging, overseeing the business office, human resources, physical plant, the campus store, and information technology services. He also staffs four Board of Trustee committees—buildings and grounds, finance, investments, and audit.
Through a variety of economic conditions, Davies has maintained financial stewardship of the College with balanced budgets, a stable Standard & Poor’s debt rating, and a historically low rate of interest on college debt.
In addition to his leadership across myriad areas of the College, Lindgren praised Davies for the manner in which he does it.
“His colleagues will tell you that he is best known for his infectious optimism,” Lindgren said. “In the face of all of our challenges, he proudly displays his gifted nameplate on his desk, identifying him as our Chief Optimist.”
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. Valentina Lucas, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Dr. Valentina Lucas joined the faculty in 2021, quickly becoming engaged in the RMC community and the Department of Nursing as a member of faculty committees and a contributor to the development of new courses for the nursing program.
Provost Rosenthal quoted praise from Lucas’s student nominators as a professor that cares deeply for them and their success. “They cite her classroom as an environment that feels safe for asking questions and making mistakes, and they note how successfully she blends challenging material with support for them and confidence in their potential,” Rosenthal said.
Beyond the classroom, Lucas has published nearly 20 articles and received numerous professional honors. She also provides inpatient care to burn victims at the VCU Evan-Haynes Burn Center for approximately 20 hours each month.
Dr. Timothy A. Brown, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Dr. Timothy A. Brown received his second Thomas Branch Award, having previously won the honor in 2021. Since joining the faculty in 2008, Brown has taught 15 different courses, and many students say they’d take his class “again in a heartbeat.”
“Students praise his empathetic nature and his ability to explain complicated and unfamiliar concepts clearly,” Rosenthal said. “They note how deeply he cares about student learning and how successfully he creates a classroom environment in which differences are embraced and respected.”
Brown has embraced the interdisciplinary culture of the College, collaborating closely with colleagues in Asian studies, mathematics, and biology. He has served RMC as the department chair for religious studies, a Title IX investigator for the Student Conduct Board, and a member of several committees.
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. Steven D. Lang, Edward W. Seese Professor of Economics
Dr. Steven D. Lang has been a faculty member at RMC since 1987. He served as the Chair of the Department of Economics and Business for three years before serving as the Associate Dean of the College from 1999–2002. Since 2013, Lang has again served as department chair, helping oversee the transition to the Department of Economics, Business, and Accounting.
He also worked with colleagues in 2014 and 2015 to implement RMC’s major in business, which is now the largest major at the College. A prolific scholar, Lang has published or presented 59 separate papers.
Rosenthal applauded Lang as a creative teacher who seeks to meet students where they are, as well as an active participant in community service projects.
“Dr. Lang is a highly effective teacher and an impressive scholar,” Rosenthal said. “He believes deeply in serving both Randolph-Macon College and its students, as well as the broader community. He is a person of faith and of unwavering integrity.”
Marilyn J. Gibbs Dedicated Service Award
The Marilyn J. Gibbs Dedicated Service was created by a generous gift from former Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Steven Nape and his wife Diane and 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, who served RMC for 18 years in a variety of roles, including as a professor of sociology and as registrar.
Maurice Kiely, Director of Campus Safety
Maurice Kiely has worked in campus safety at Randolph-Macon for over two decades, starting at the entry level and rising to his current role of director.
Known simply as “Moe” across the campus, Major Kiely is a critical part of creating a campus environment where faculty, staff, and especially students feel supported, cared for, and safe. He was described by his nominator for this award as demonstrating an “always” culture—always giving the best service, always putting forth his best effort, always presenting a positive attitude, and always going the extra mile in support of his community.
“His demeanor and approach are to listen intently and to always seek a way to help in the situation,” Lindgren said. “He is level-headed and affable, possessing an easy-going nature that puts others at ease.”