Recognizing The Best | Eastern North Carolina Now

Marilyn Sheerer admitted as she stood at the podium, watching her colleagues giving a standing ovation, that she's seldom at a loss for words. But she was almost there during the fifth annual University Awards Day ceremony.

    Publisher's note: The author of this post, Jeannine Manning Hutson, is a contributor to ECU News Services.

University Awards Day honors excellence in teaching, service

    Marilyn Sheerer admitted as she stood at the podium, watching her colleagues giving a standing ovation, that she's seldom at a loss for words. But she was almost there during the fifth annual University Awards Day ceremony.

    Sheerer took a moment to regroup after Chancellor Steve Ballard called her name as recipient of the 2014 James R. Talton Jr. Leadership Award during the East Carolina University event held April 30.

    The provost admitted she was surprised.

    "I guess the first thing I would say is what a wonderful recognition as I step down," said Sheerer, who plans to end her tenure as provost on Aug. 15, a position she's held since 2007.

    "The amazing success of all the leaders here at ECU, particularly on the executive team, is due to the kind of collaborative spirit that we all share," she said. "And it starts with Chancellor Ballard and goes through that whole team. So, honestly, it's not real hard to be successful because you have a lot of support and people believe in what we are doing. And I've been so proud to be a part of that."

    Sheerer's ability to lead and bring people together were cited in the letters from colleagues nominating her for the award, which recognizes the embodiment of the characteristics of a servant leader.

    The chancellor read from one of those letters: "Marilyn is uncommonly wise, unfailingly fair and willing to tackle the most difficult leadership assignments."

    In addition to Sheerer, faculty, staff and students were recognized for their achievements.

    "Today we recognize the best there is in teaching, research, service, leadership and engagement – all hallmark characteristics of this university," Ballard said, opening the ceremony in Hendrix Theatre.

    Sheerer added, "It is a special day to celebrate the different aspects of East Carolina University, to recognize the best in our faculty and staff. You are truly the heart and soul of the university."

    UNC Board of Governors member and ECU alumnus Bob Rippy presented the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest teaching award given by the board, to Dr. Abbie Brown.

Abbie Brown sported the wearable technology Google Glass while accepting the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
    Brown, a professor of instructional technology in the College of Education, accepted the award wearing Google glass, a wearable computer with an optical display. He explained that Google glass users are called "glass explorers" and he sees himself in that term.

    An online-only instructor, Brown teaches graduate-level courses to current or aspiring educators aiming to improve their ability to teach and create instructional materials. "This means I have to model the best teaching practices for a sophisticated and critical group," he said.

    "And since my courses are delivered entirely online I have to find ways to effectively deliver content," he said. At the same time, he must "create a social environment that encourages community development and professional networking" and in a setting that is "new and different for most of them."

    Translation? He's an explorer.

    "I spend my work day learning about things and figuring the best ways to share what I've learned. I study the discoveries made by explorers past and present, and I share my own discoveries with fellow explorers present and future," Brown said.

    Read more about Brown's approach to teaching at

    Other awards presented during the ceremony:

    The Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award recognizes and supports excellent teaching at each of the 16 constituent universities in the UNC system. Six ECU recipients were selected:

  • Dr. Patricia "Patch" Clark, School of Theatre and Dance
  • Dr. Kylie Dotson-Blake, Department of Higher, Adult and Counselor Education
  • Dr. Allen O. Guidry, Department of Literacy Studies, English Education and History Education
  • Dr. Kindal Shores, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • Dr. Anne Marie Spuches, Department of Chemistry
  • Wendy Whisner, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies

    The 2013-14 recipients of the Scholar-Teacher Award, now in its 18th year, were recognized during Research and Creative Achievement Week. Recipients are as follows:

  • Dr. Junhua Ding, Department of Computer Science
  • Dr. Bryce L. Jorgensen, Department of Child Development and Family Relations
  • Dr. Jay Juchniewicz, School of Music
  • Dr. Zi-Wei Lin, Department of Physics
  • Dr. Matthew Mahar, Department of Kinesiology
  • Dr. Susan B. McRae, Department of Biology
  • Dr. Jason Oliver, Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • Dr. Pamela J. Reis, Department of Graduate Nursing Science
  • Dr. Nicholas G. Rupp, Department of Economics
  • Dr. Steven W. Schmidt, Department of Higher, Adult, and Counselor Education

    The ECU Alumni Association Robert L. Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching – presented by Dr. Richard Eakin, interim president of the alumni association – recognized Dr. Anne Bunnell, Department of Biology.

    Also recognized were Dr. Eboni Baugh, Department of Child Development and Family Relations, and Dr. John Kros, Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, who received the East Carolina Alumni Association Awards for Outstanding Teaching.

    The Max Ray Joyner Award for Faculty Service through Distance Education honors a faculty member who has shown commitment and enthusiasm in teaching and mentoring off-campus students and who has demonstrated excellence in the delivery of courses through distance education.

    Clayton Sessoms, director of continuing studies and summer school, presented the award to Dr. Brian Housand, Department of Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education.

    The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement for Research and Creative Activity was Dr. Margaret Bauer, Rives Chair of Southern Literature in the Department of English and editor of the North Carolina Literary Review.

    Dr. David Kimmel, Department of Biology and the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, and Dr. Heather Littleton, Department of Psychology, received the Five-Year Achievement Awards.

    First presented in 2011, the Scholarship of Engagement Award recognizes one faculty member annually for achievement in the scholarship of engagement and a sustained commitment to partnered scholarly endeavors with communities. Dr. Martha Engelke, director of research and creative activity at the College of Nursing, received the honor.

    Read more about Bauer, Kimmel, Littleton and Engelke's research and engagement work at

    The Centennial Awards for Excellence recognizes distinction in four areas – service, leadership, ambition and spirit. These awards may be given to ECU faculty, staff, administrators and/or teams and may be presented to up to three recipients per category.

Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, accepts a Centennial Award for Excellence during University Awards Day.
    Recipients in the area of service were Nancy Harris, Department of Nutrition Sciences; Dr. David Chalcraft and Dr. Heather Vance-Chalcraft, Department of Biology; and Jennifer Cabacar, School of Communication.

    And in the leadership category, Dr. Cynthia Deale, School of Hospitality Leadership, and Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, were recognized.

    In the ambition category, recipients were Kristen Harris, academic advisor in the College of Business; and members of the REACH Team at the Brody School of Medicine. REACH stands for Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare. Team members are Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, Brody Academic Affairs and Dr. Luan Lawson, Brody Academic Affairs and Department of Emergency Medicine (team leaders); Yancey Crawford, Brody Academic Affairs; Dr. Herbert Garrison, Graduate Medical Education and Department of Emergency Medicine; Dr. Jason Higginson, Department of Pediatrics; Dr. Donna Lake, School of Nursing; Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, Public Health and Department of Pediatrics; and Dr. Danielle Walsh, Department of Pediatric Surgery.

    This year's recipient of the spirit award is the ECU Care team, which was created to address the health and safety needs of individual students and strives to keep students and the rest of the campus community safe.

    Members of the team are Dr. Travis Lewis, associate dean of students, chair; Dr. Matt Dwyer, director of Center for Counseling and Student Development; Dr. Lathan Turner, associate dean of students; Anne Marie Gore, student affairs case manager; Jolene Jernigan, director of Student Health Services; Liz Johnston, director of Disability Support Services; Waz Miller, director of Residence Life, Campus Living; and Patricia Lilley Barfield, dean of students intern.

    Also recognized were inductees into the Servire Society, who have contributed 100 or more hours of volunteer service – without compensation and outside their normal realm of duties – to the community at large within the previous year. See inductees listing at right.

    Ballard closed the ceremony by thanking all faculty and staff for their contributions. "You make ECU what it is – a great university committed to our students, service and leadership," he said.

At the April 30 University Awards Day ceremony, ECU Provost Marilyn Sheerer was the surprised recipient of the James R. Talton Jr. Leadership Award. The award is presented for demonstrating characteristics that embody a servant leader, who serves others through collaboration, empathy, trust and ethical use of authority.

Recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award.

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