Faculty recognized with Founders Awards, college honors
Twelve University of Findlay faculty members were honored at a November dinner gala with 2022 Academic Year University Awards for their excellence in teaching, research, and service benefiting students and the community.
“We are proud to honor these distinguished faculty members and their achievements,” said Darin Fields, Ph.D., executive vice president of academic affairs, who hosted the ceremony.
“They are role models for all of us in their quality of teaching, commitment to students, and cooperative efforts among colleagues that they demonstrate daily on campus.”
The Founders’ Award for Academic Excellence and Christian Witness, the David L. Allen Award for Holistic Teaching Excellence, and the Harriette Smith Ritz Award for Service to the University are presented each year.
Elizabeth Buchanan, Ph.D., J.D., associate professor of history, received the Founders’ Award for Academic Excellence and Christian Witness. Established by the Churches of God and the University, it is based on quality of teaching, publications, relationships with students, rapport with faculty and administrators, positive role model, and Christian lifestyle.
A faculty member since 2016, Buchanan teaches history and law. “She guides her students to think for themselves and skillfully leads them through complicated concepts,” said Pastor Matthew Ginter, UF director of Christian ministries, who nominated her for the honor. “She incorporates research into all her courses to spark curiosity and develop critical thinkers.”
Her scholarly interests range from local engagement with the Hancock Historical Museum to international research in Late Antique and Byzantine studies. Buchanan also tutors undergraduate and graduate students in Greek and Latin and serves as chair of the Graduate Council and co-chair of the Academic Policy Advisory Committee. She coordinates Moot Court and recently engaged her museum students in a project to inventory veterans’ records at the Hancock Historical Museum.
Sarah Fedirka, Ph.D., was presented the David L. Allen award that recognizes faculty members for holistic teaching excellence that goes beyond the classroom. The prestigious award was endowed by the late David L. Allen, Ph.D., professor of sociology and 31-year UF faculty member.
The chair and associate professor of English who began teaching at UF in 2011, Fedirka is very popular with her students because of the difference she makes in their academic, personal, and emotional development.
“Her student evaluations are outstanding—literally among the best in the college—and her students speak openly in their comments about how much they learn,” said Ron Tulley, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, who nominated her.
He noted one student’s comments: “She cares about her students, pushes her students, relates to her students, and most importantly wants to see her students succeed. If I can be half the teacher Dr. Fedirka is, then I am going to have a highly successful career.”
Christine Denecker, Ph.D., associate vice president for learning and innovation and professor of English, received the Harriette Smith Ritz Service to the University Award that highlights the importance of service to the institution by faculty members.
Fields described Denecker, who has served at UF since 2003, as “the true embodiment of a servant leader.”
She was chair of the English department for several years and director of the Center for Teaching and Program Excellence, while also serving on curriculum, assessment, technology, judicial, library, discipline, and faculty affairs committees.
Denecker is a national expert on dual enrollment, the program that allows high school students to concurrently take university courses, and she is president-elect of the National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.
“Dr. Denecker is a respected leader among the University faculty. She has served on almost every committee at some point in her career,” said Fields, who nominated her for the honor. “She has a heart for service and a passion for excellence that marks all her work in these areas.”
Buchanan, Fedirka, and Denecker each received monetary gifts, engraved awards, and recognition on a permanent plaque in Old Main.
Other award recipients honored at the dinner gala were:
- Sandra Earle, PharmD, associate professor of teaching in pharmaceutical sciences, Excellence in Teaching, Research, Supervision and Support of Students in the College of Pharmacy Award. For decades, she has mentored students in her formal areas of expertise, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, and in the area of “how to learn.” She also serves as associate dean for assessment and student success, and teaches, advises research, and coaches dozens of students each year.
- Susan Lewis, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy practice, College of Pharmacy Faculty Scholarship Award. She ties her clinical practice, teaching, and research together in a synergistic manner, while involving students in her work and mentoring them in research. During 2021-22, she authored or co-authorized seven manuscripts – five of which were published in national journals, and submitted 16 posters – seven of which have been peer-reviewed and presented to date.
- Nathan Tice, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and chair of physical sciences, named as the Faculty Chair in the College of Sciences. His scholarly portfolio features 110 peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and posters. He has mentored 22 undergraduate students and one master’s student on their research endeavors. He also provides guidance in psychosocial matters and coordinates lecture and speaker panel events, as well as development activities on student success.
- Kathy Mason,D., professor of history and chair of the history, law, and gender studies department, named as the Richard E. Wilkin Faculty Chair in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. She has written dozens of academic publications, conference presentations, lectures, and reviews including the book, Women Lighthouse Keepers of Lake Michigan: Heroic Tales of Courage and Resourcefulness. Her Wilkin Chair project for 2022-23 is “Yellowstone National Park at 150: A Sesquicentennial Celebration of the National Park Idea.” Mason is the only two-time recipient of the Wilkin Chair.
- Lucas Gross, ’08 ’16, M.S., instructor and clinical coordinator of nuclear medicine technology, Sharon Milligan Faculty Excellence Award in the College of Health Professions. He also serves as the radiation safety officer and director of medical laboratory science and participates in many professional organizations and honor societies.
- Kerry Teeple, ’14 ’19, Ed.D., assistant professor of education, James D. and Judith L. Philipp Award of Excellence for the College of Education. She has presented at state and national conferences and recently published in the Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literature. She is the tutoring coordinator for math and literacy work with Findlay City Schools, co-advises the UF Student Education Association, and started a STEAM Team for local second and third-grade students.
- Patti Abels, D.B.A., professor of business, named as the Gupta Faculty Chair and presented the Shiv Kumar Gupta Award for Excellence in Teaching Business. In the past three years, she has written eight publications and more than 15 presentations on topics including high-quality online courses. She also serves as the Accounting Honor Society advisor and chairs the Graduate Faculty Standards Committee.
- Valerie Escobedo, F.A., associate professor of art, Elizabeth and Professor Shiv Kumar Gupta Award For Excellence in Teaching in Fine Arts. She served as chair of the department of visual and performing arts for nine years. Escobedo also has her own art practice, exhibiting her paintings and drawings in regional, state, and national exhibitions, and her work has been included in three drawing and painting annuals.
- Brandon Forshey, ’09, D.V.M., assistant professor of animal science and director of pre-veterinary medicine, UF Advisor of the Year Award for being responsive to students, providing one-on-one advice and support, and pushing them to set and reach goals.