The faculty recipients of the 2012 Chancellor's Awards for Excellence include (from left) Sheliah F. Clarke-Ekong, Patricia Anne Rosenthal, Dr. Edward S. Bennett and Janet L. Lauritsen. Natalie Anne Bolton received the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award. Donna Wadsworth-Brown (not pictured) also received a Chancellor's Award for Excellence. The awards were handed out at the annual State of the University Wednesday at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

More than 300 people gathered in the auditorium at the J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center Wednesday for University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor Tom George’s annual State of the University Address.

In addition to highlighting campus news, George presented six outstanding faculty members with awards for their work.

The Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence, established in 1988 by Chancellor Marguerite Ross Barnett, have become a university tradition to recognize the excellent work and commitment given daily by UMSL faculty.

Janet L. Lauritsen, professor of criminology and criminal justice, received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Research and Creativity.

Twenty-two years ago, Lauritsen arrived at UMSL as a new assistant professor. Today, she is considered the nation’s foremost expert in the patterns and trends of criminal victimization. And she has become one of the scholars most responsible for the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s national and international reputation for research excellence.

Lauritsen has published more than 50 journal articles, book chapters and book reviews in the best journals in the field. But her research is so much more than numbers. Her papers have been published in the most prestigious journals. Her advice is sought at all levels and she has served on numerous, highly influential panels at the National Academy of Sciences including one to review the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Dr. Edward S. Bennett, assistant dean and associate professor of optometry, received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Teaching.

Bennett has had an extraordinary impact on worldwide contact lens education. He has been at the forefront of its early history as a researcher and scholar. He has authored or co-authored 10 textbooks and been recognized with numerous national and international awards in his field. His colleagues and former students who recommended him for this award often refer to him as one of those few teachers who played a significant role in their lives.

One letter from a former student reads, “Dr. Bennett’s approach to education sets him apart. He always makes a point to get to know students well before they have him in the classroom. Because of his national prominence in contact lenses, UMSL’s optometry students take pride in knowing they are learning from the best. His concern and interest doesn’t stop at graduation, however. He has personally continued to mentor me as I reach my goals in my own practice.”

Sheliah F. Clarke-Ekong, associate professor of anthropology, received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Service.

Clarke-Ekong came to UMSL 20 years ago with a new PhD and a decade of study in Nigeria.  She has served on over 35 campus committees, not including service to her department. She served as interim dean of the Evening College for three years. During the 2008-09 academic year, Clarke-Ekong served on 13 campus committees. She has served on four Faculty Senate committees in addition to the Chancellor’s Athletics Advisory Committee and the Campus-Wide Academic Advisory Council.

She is an active member of the African American Faculty and Staff Association, which helps raise money for scholarships for African American students. She is a mentor and role model for African American faculty offering career advice and support in navigating the academic terrain. Clarke-Ekong has also set the standard for faculty participation in student recruitment serving in various roles in UMSL Day, Student for a Day and New Student Orientation.

Patricia Anne Rosenthal, associate director and associate clinical professor of social work, received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Non-Tenure Track Faculty.

Rosenthal’s colleagues referred to her as a “pillar of the social work program.”  In social work, students apply theory and evidence to practice in their internships or field placements. It is a core feature of their education. Rosenthal oversees all aspects of that experience for 40 graduate students a semester.

Several years ago, Rosenthal took her innovative curriculum to the community when she developed the “100 Neediest Cases” assignment. It’s been a huge success. Each November her undergraduate students work with United Way staff and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to help determine the allocation of funds to be distributed to families in need. They pore over of hundreds of applications to determine, within some basic parameters, the actual allocation.

Donna Wadsworth-Brown, lecturer in English, received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Part-Time.

Wadsworth-Brown teaches pre-service high school English teachers at UMSL.  She is approaching a half century of classroom experience and can still say: “Nothing is more rewarding to me than walking into a classroom filled with strangers … building a community with them … exploring with each his or her unique potential and then sending them off to their own students.”

“WB” as she is fondly called, may be a part-time employee, but she gives a full-time effort to her students and her classes.

Also, the annual Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Natalie Anne Bolton, assistant professor of education psychology, research and evaluation.

Before coming to UMSL, Bolton taught middle school social studies. From those experiences she learned it was essential to be innovative in her practice, to have a student-centered assessment focus, and to engage students using a variety of instructional strategies.

Each year, the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a faculty member who is in the early stages of his or her career and demonstrates outstanding and innovative teaching abilities.

Awards for 25 years of service were presented to the following faculty:

Valerian T. D’Souza, associate professor of chemistry
Sally Barr Ebest, professor of English
Vinita Henry, clinical professor of optometry
William Klein, teaching professor of English
William H. McAlister, associate professor of optometry
Helene J. Sherman, associate dean and professor of education

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton