Two weeks ago, Scripps students received an email announcing the recipients of the Mary W. Johnson Faculty Achievement Award. Named after Mary Wig Johnson, a major supporter of and contributor to Scripps, the award is given by an anonymous committee that deliberates upon nominations from Scripps community members and awards 12 professors who have reached extraordinary heights in teaching, research and service.
All award recipients were extremely gratified and honored to receive such recognition, and were quick to point out that many others deserved awards as well. Professor Gayle Blankenburg stated, "The award makes me feel like a valued member of the Scripps College community."
Indeed, Scripps professors have won countless awards, published many works and performances, conducted groundbreaking research, traveled around the world and shared with Scripps students the knowledge and wisdom gained from their many experiences. Most recipients say that if the decision were up to them they would give the award to someone else. Yet all the recipients are very well qualified for the honor.
For the teaching recipients, the award is all about the students. Professor Marina Pérez de Mendiola said, "the students I teach here are the reason why I stay at Scripps. I have been blessed with incredibly intelligent and dedicated students and whatever I give them, they give me back a 100 times more."
Professor Gail Abrams agreed, "this type of academic environment is so stimulating. I feel most fortunate to be at Scripps because of the freedom I have to teach what I want and how I want. I believe that significant, lasting learning takes place when students recognize the relevance of course material to multiple and diverse aspects of their lives."
Professor Aaron Matz employs a similar approach in teaching, using close examination of complex novels to understand what he referred to as "the most vital of forms and genres in literature."
Recipients of the Teaching Award are: Gail Abrams (Dance), Aaron Matz (English), Mark Golub (Politics/International Relations), Natalie Rachlin (French) and Marina Perez de Mendiola (Hispanic Studies).
The research recipients are given the award for their research from the past year, which includes projects such as publications, scientific studies, art exhibits or musical accomplishments.
Professor Gayle Blankenburg is a music professor who recorded a CD of Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" with the Chamber Music ensemble in which she plays. Blankenburg performed in many concerts both on and off campus, and was part of the Scripps Music delegation to Xiamen University in China, where she both performed and taught.
Professor Eric Haskell, professor of French and Humanities, has received the award eight previous times. His accomplishments for the 2007-2008 year include 32 public lectures, a book, scholarly papers and articles and international travel for research. He particularly focused on "image-text inquiry as it relates to the illustrated book and garden history."
Professor Nancy Macko received the award for integrating art with other fields. Her works were displayed worldwide, especially in the Czech Republic, the RISD Museum of Art and the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
Professor Amy Marcus-Newhall studied two different topics: genocide and the intersection of work and family. She focused on social justice, intergroup relationships and women's issues. Marcus-Newhall also contributed to three books in the past year and has begun a series of studies on genocide and activism.
Professor Stacey Wood focused on decision making, even going so far as to joke that "Some students say my classes make them better poker players!" She also focused on law psychology, serving as editor for the "Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Psychologists."
Two professors who have done some extraordinary community service also received the Faculty award. The recipients for the 2007-2008 year are Professor Nancy Neiman-Auerbach (Politics/International Relations), currently on sabbatical, and Professor Rita Roberts (History and Black Studies).
With their extraordinary accomplishments, the recipients of the 2007-2008 award set the bar very high for this year's recipients, who will be announced in the next academic year. Their many accomplishments have benefited Scripps and the outside community. Even after receiving this award, these professors have their feet firmly on the ground and modestly applaud their fellow faculty members for their accomplishments. Their numerous accomplishments show us just how superhuman they are. So to the professors who won for last year: If it weren't for your passion and dedication to giving us a high-quality education, academics at Scripps would not be nearly as fulfilling as it currently is. Let's break out the champagne (or the sparkling cider) and celebrate these wonderful professors, who make Scripps what it is and make our lives more wonderful every day. Congratulations!