Baylor professors of the year represent chemistry, English, history & education
Another academic year has come to its end: final grades posted, books returned, students graduated — and Baylor professors honored! Here’s a look at this year’s Baylor professors of the year:
The Collins Outstanding Professor Award, which is voted on by the outgoing senior class, includes a $10,000 cash prize for the recipient. Past Collins professors include Rachel Moore (MA ’69) in 1999, Dr. Mona Choucair (BA ’86, PhD ’00) in 2008, and Dr. Jane Damron (MA ’09) in 2019.
Baylor’s Class of 2023 chose Dr. Thomas McGrath, a senior lecturer in chemistry and undergraduate program director in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as this year’s recipient of the Collins Award. “I love my job. It’s really the students who make teaching here so special,” McGrath says. “I’ve been blessed to be able to interact with so many great students over the years, and so for the senior class to honor me in this way is both fantastic and humbling.”
The Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year honors a professor who “makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor,” based on teaching, research and service, and includes a $20,000 award. Past recipients include Dr. Bill Hillis (BS ’53) in 2009, Dr. Roger Kirk in 2012, and Dr. Gaynor Yancey in 2019.
Dr. Richard Rankin Russell, professor of English and graduate program director of English, is this year’s honoree. “Being honored with the Cornelia Marschall Smith Award is humbling and amazing to me,” Russell says. “Some of my real heroes on the faculty such as David Lyle Jeffrey and Alden Smith have received the award in the past, so I’m thrilled to be part of this group. Dr. Cornelia Marschall Smith was a legend at Baylor, and that the award is named for her makes it even more meaningful.”
The Baylor Centennial Professor Award is funded by the Centennial Class of 1945 and provides $5,000 for financial support to aid professors with specific research projects. Past honorees include Robert Darden (BSED ’76) in 2008, Dr. Greg Garrett in 2013, and Dr. Beth Allison Barr (BA ’96) in 2018.
Two professors were selected for the 2023 award: Dr. Julie deGraffenried, history department chair and associate professor of history, and Dr. Karon LeCompte, associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the School of Education. deGraffenried will use the award to continue her study of Soviet-era anti-religious propaganda posters for insight into the USSR’s efforts to suppress faith communities. LeCompte aims to use her award to study the effectiveness of civics efforts like Baylor’s iEngage summer program, with an end goal of creating a framework for future programs.
A dozen other Baylor faculty members were honored with Outstanding Faculty awards for their teaching, scholarship and contributions to the academic community in 2022-23: Dr. Kimlyn J. Bender, Dr. David Bridge, Dr. Tomas Cerny (MS ’09), Dr. Stephen Gardner (BBA ’94), Dr. Rebecca Poe Hays (PhD ’18), Luci Ramos Hoppe (BA ’02, MSW ’05), Dr. Patricia Norman, Dr. David A. Smith, Dr. Douglas E. Smith, Dr. Joshua K. Strakos, Dr. Jamie Van Eyck, and Dr. Zhenrong Zhang.
Sic ’em, Baylor professors!