The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College have announced the winners of this year’s Annual Faculty Awards. These awards highlight the excellence and achievement of three faculty members each year. University President, Dr. Michelle Johnston, praised the contributions and expertise of the entire faculty at the Awards Ceremony.
“Rio Grande’s faculty members are a dedicated, supportive, and impressive group. They carry out our mission to provide a high-quality education each and every day as they interact with students in and out of the classroom,” Johnston said. “I am so proud that we take this time to recognize the selfless and talented work of our faculty.”
Dr. Wesley Thoene, associate professor of marketing, was selected to receive of the Edwin A. Jones Excellence in Teaching Award. This award is presented to a faculty member who reflects Jones’ outstanding commitment to higher education, community involvement and philanthropy. Each year, the Rio faculty votes for one of their colleagues to receive this honor. Thoene said he feels this award confirms students are receiving quality education in his classroom.
“I was very humbled to win this award because I hold the past winners in very high esteem. It’s an honor and privilege to be chosen as part of this group,” Thoene said. “Awards like this affirm that our classroom work and activities are making a difference for the students.”
The Excellence in Scholarship Award was presented to Dr. Robert Hopkins, associate professor of wildlife conservation. This honor recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates long-term commitment to and makes superior contributions to scholarship in their program or field. The recipient must also demonstrate a record of publications, exhibitions, performances or other forms of scholarship on a regional, national or international level. Hopkins spent his fall semester on sabbatical leave to make geographic distribution maps and author some chapters of a three-volume set of scientific reference books.
“I was honored to receive this award and join the ranks of previous recipients whom I truly admire and consider excellent examples of the teacher-scholar,” Hopkins said. “The vast majority of my research and scholarship activities here at Rio have included undergraduates. Their intellectual energy and ingenuity is the single largest factor contributing to my success as a scholar. I feel this award is a collective achievement rather than an individual one. Rio has provided opportunities such as sabbatical, grants and fellowships that enabled me to carry on my research. I’m very thankful they support faculty’s efforts in scholarship.”
The Ernie Wyant Award for Outstanding Teaching is presented to a faculty member chosen by the students as the most outstanding teacher of the year and encourages academic achievement, helping prepare students to be successful following graduation. This year’s winner for the award was Allen Beatty, instructor of business.
“Because I’ve only been here at Rio a little over a year, finding out I won this award absolutely floored me,” Beatty said. “It’s an honor to know the students feel that compelled to select me. The way I look at teaching is it isn’t a job, it’s a calling, and we need to build relationships with the students to create the support needed to help them succeed in their education and career endeavors.”
Dr. Richard Sax, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said he is proud of the winners for their efforts to enhance learning experiences at Rio.
“These three award-winning teachers respectively show a passion for their academic areas and a deep dedication to student success and student learning outcomes. As Chaucer’s “Clerk of Oxenford” (Oxford professor) was described: “And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”—those lines of Middle English would justly describe Associate Professor Wesley Thoene, Associate Professor Robert Hopkins, and Instructor Al Beatty,” Sax said. “Students especially, and our entire living-learning community, benefit profoundly from their professional efforts.”
The university and community college congratulate the winners on their success in the classroom and abilities to create a learning environment where students can thrive in their academic journeys.