Feature Story

UPDATED: No Higher Honor

October 24, 2014 – by Pam Besel

Updated: November 6, 2014

Ohio Wesleyan’s Heritage Day website’s 2014 Celebration page now includes video interviews conducted with many of the University’s award-winning faculty members. The interviews were conducted by emeritus faculty Louise Musser and Bernard Murchland. On Nov. 13, the Great Teacher Lecture Series will conclude with presentations by Wendell Patton, “Meet the Neighbors: Life in Delaware’s Vernal Pools”; Bob Gitter, “The Role of Higher Education in the 21st Century”; Karen Poremski, “An Honor Song for Albert White Hat, Sr.”; and Bonnie Milne Gardner, “Making the Leap: Page to Stage,” showcasing student scripts that made it to the OWU stage.

Talk with any OWU professor, and you can’t help but notice a passion for teaching. And if you ask students what they like best about Ohio Wesleyan, teaching excellence heads the list, time after time.

One important mechanism for recognizing such excellence has been in place now for 50 years through two special teaching awards presented during Commencement festivities: The Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award and the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers.

New this year and in conjunction with the November 13 Heritage Day planning around the theme, “No Higher Honor: A Half-Century of Celebrated Teaching Faculty,” will be several mini-lectures presented by past teaching award recipients. They will speak during Homecoming, Family Weekend, and Heritage Day.

“Those folks who never had opportunities to take classes from our professors now will be able to sample those experiences,” says Barbara Andereck, physics professor and assistant provost for assessment and accreditation. As an ad hoc member of the Heritage Day planning committee, the former Shankland award winner supported the group’s decision to bring these award-winning teachers to a broader audience.

Andereck mysteriously shares that her own presentation during Homecoming Weekend, “Lessons in Astronomy, Rhetoric and Philanthropy,” will include some very interesting connections between Galileo’s experiences and Ohio Wesleyan, three centuries later!

Additional presenters still are being confirmed, but include professors Bob Gitter, Marty Kalb, Richard Smith, Ted Cohen, Jed Burtt, Wendell Patton, Karen Poremski, Jay Martin, and Erin Flynn.

“Since this is the 50th anniversary of our teaching awards, it is a great opportunity to honor our awardees, and also to attend classes taught by these professors,” says Nancy Bihl Rutkowski, assistant director for student involvement and leadership and Heritage Day convener.

Through Skype, former OWU professors and teaching award winners Akbar Mahdi and Kim Dolgin also will participate from their West Coast homes.

“I especially like that we are partners with OWU’s alumni relations area in our Heritage Day planning,” Rutkowski says.

That partnership further expands the reach of the group’s mission, another of its early planners explains.

“More than six years ago, Nancy and I talked about how we could celebrate and highlight OWU’s history, and add to school spirit and pride,” recalls Chad Johns ’02, associate chaplain and Heritage Day committee member. “We wanted to keep a balance between the academic, co-curricular, physical, and cultural aspects of campus. That is how and why Heritage Day began.”