Recognizing and Honoring Excellence
For over sixty years LSSU has conferred a teaching award that recognizes and honors individual excellence — the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. Your input is key; only current students, faculty, staff, and alumni may nominate faculty for this award. The award is highly competitive and prestigious as well. Each year graduating seniors and previous award recipients review many nominations prior to selecting an awardee.
Deadline for submission is Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at 5:00 pm.
Note: This is much more than a ballot. Your nomination MUST be supported by your responses to the criteria listed. Letters giving thoughtful explanations in support of the nomination will carry the most weight with the Award Committee. The number of nominations does not dictate who the recipient will be. The Award Committee is comprised of graduating seniors with the highest grade point average in their colleges/schools and previous Distinguished Teaching Award recipients that are current faculty members.
The Distinguished Teaching Award was established at Lake Superior State University in 1958. It is the most prestigious award that can be bestowed upon an LSSU faculty member. It is also typically an once-in-a-lifetime recognition of outstanding achievement as a teacher.
A Distinguished Teacher at LSSU may be popular—both among students and faculty colleagues—but popularity is not what distinguishes the Distinguished Teacher. A Distinguished Teacher
- is a tenured/tenure-track faculty member (excludes adjuncts, temporary, and non-renewed faculty)
- demonstrates command of his or her subject matter,
- explains difficult concepts clearly,
- utilizes creative and innovative methods in order to engage students,
- generates excitement and enthusiasm for the subject,
- treats students fairly and respectfully,
- assists students both inside and outside the classroom,
- maintains challenging standards,
- inspires students to expect more of themselves, and
- serves as a good role model for students, faculty colleagues, and others.
A Distinguished Teacher will display all of these individual characteristics in a way that touches and changes lives. Students will likely be forever grateful to a Distinguished Teacher, for this person will have expanded their horizons and helped them realize more of their potential.
Dr. Robert Kipka, 2022
Dr. Robert Kipka joined the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Lake Superior State University in 2017. He taught his first university course in 2003 as a graduate student at Michigan Technological University, where he earned a Master of Science Degree in Applied Mathematics. After graduation from Western Michigan University with his PhD in Mathematics in 2014, he held the Coleman Postdoctoral Fellowship at Queen’s University and served on the faculty at the Stark Campus of Kent State University. He has been nominated for the Distinguished Teacher Award in four out of his five years at LSSU and was also nominated for a distinguished teaching award during his time at Kent State. In the January 2022 meeting of the Lake Superior State University Board of Trustees, Dr. Kipka received tenure and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor.
Dr. Kipka consistently demonstrates a passion for mathematics and active learning strategies. His enthusiasm and academic curiosity is evident inside and outside of the classroom. He applies a broad range of pedagogical techniques and adapts his courses to the needs of his students. Dr. Kipka is known for his accessibility and a commitment to student success.
Congratulations to Dr. Kipka for being recognized as the 2022 Distinguished Teacher. Through serving as a role model, educator, and mentor to students at Lake Superior State University, he has earned the esteem of his students and peers. Perhaps this is best encapsulated through the words of one of his former students, Brendan Lukomski, who stated, “When it comes to gauging the success of a professor, there is no better litmus test than their students, and I believe it is no secret among students that Dr. Kipka is one of the finest professors Lake State has to offer.”
Dr. Cathy White, 2021
LSSU’s Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes faculty members who are dedicated to excellence in teaching and committed to helping their students succeed.
In appreciation for that dedication and commitment, LSSU proudly announces Dr. Cathy White, associate professor in the School of Education, is the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. White teaches in the teacher education program, and her students have expressed admiration for her expertise as an educator and sincere appreciation for her caring support.
Dr. White’s students note that her classes are well organized, creatively engaging, replete with diverse perspectives, and filled with hands-on learning activities. They admire Dr. White’s commitment to sharing authentic perspectives with them in classes, and are grateful for the many resources she seeks out to ensure they understand diverse first-hand perspectives. Dr. White is applauded by her students as a role model and mentor who always has an “open door” for students; they point to her as an outstanding advisor, always willing to meet with students to help with their academic needs and career needs, as well as their personal needs. Her students speak highly of the connections Dr. White makes with them, and acknowledge that she has often helped them to achieve stronger connections to the University and to the teaching profession.
When she received this award at the 2021 virtual commencement ceremonies, Dr. White exhorted students to continue their journeys of lifelong learning, telling them, “I hope you stay curious. I hope you keep learning from others. Everyone has something to teach and to learn. Stay open to that and you will continue to grow. Most of all, I hope you stay excited for your future.”
Dr. Melissa Shaffer-O’Connell, 2020
LSSU’s Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes faculty members who are dedicated to excellence in teaching and committed to helping their students succeed.
In appreciation for that dedication and commitment, LSSU proudly announces Dr. Melissa Shaffer-O’Connell, assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology and Behavioral Sciences, is the 2020 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Shaffer-O’Connell teaches political science, and her students describe her as creative, encouraging, supportive, and a person who has had a great influence in their lives.
Nominated and recognized by her students and colleagues for her outstanding teaching, Dr. Shaffer-O’Connell inspires, challenges, and supports her students to expand their horizons and reach new heights. Her active, hands-on teaching methods galvanize students as they work collaboratively to construct new knowledge, broaden their understanding, think creatively, and develop the skills they need for future success.
Dr. Shaffer-O’Connell’s students characterize her as a teacher who motivates students to be passionate about learning, and as someone who spurs them on to take an active role in their global citizenship. Upon accepting this award at LSSU’s 2020 virtual commencement ceremonies, Dr. Shaffer-O’Connell encouraged graduates to be brave enough to try new things, because even though “a plan for life is important because it keeps us moving forward and working towards our goals,” we should also be prepared to improvise and change directions since “life doesn’t always follow a plan.” Holding true to her course as a teacher who inspires students to think creatively, she reminded graduates that unexpected paths can take them in rewarding and fulfilling directions if they are open to explore new possibilities.
Dr. George H. Denger, 2019
Dr. George Denger was selected by his students and colleagues as this year’s recipient of the LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award. The award is kept secret until it is announced at commencement each year.
“Professor Denger demonstrates an infectious intensity, inspiring interest, and instilling insightful inquiry and investigation in his students,” said Dr. Lynn Gillette, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “As a scholar with wide-ranging academic interests, he models a perpetual intellectual curiosity and the enriching value of lifelong learning to both his students and faculty colleagues.”
Dr. Denger’s classes reveal a master teacher who has replaced the typical college lecture with engaging conversations. Students appreciate his ability to break down complex concepts and make them understandable using illustrative stories that former students remember years later.
As a teacher of Introductory Communication for many years, Dr. Denger has been described by students as “making the unbearable enjoyable.” Rather than an intimidating experience, Introductory Communication students, representing many fields of study, sincerely appreciate Dr. Denger for helping them understand the value of effective communication. Alumni in many occupations, including those inspired by Dr. Denger to obtain graduate degrees in Communication, attest to the role he has played in their professional success.
Dr. Denger accepted the prestigious award with great humor that kept the audience in stitches. He referenced an Abraham Lincoln quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt” and joked that in this case, he didn’t seem to have that option available. Dr. Denger then called this development “very pleasantly bizarre” and asked for time to collect his ruminations on the “extremely startling, wonderful, and strange event.”
Dr. Paul R. Kelso, 2018
Dr. Paul Kelso knows a lot about geology and does an exceptional job of helping his students learn about it. In recognition of his superior skills in the classroom, the longtime geology professor was chosen to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award during Lake Superior State University’s commencement ceremony on May 5, 2018.
A committee of five of the most recent recipients of the award and graduating students with the highest-grade point averages in their schools chose Kelso based on nominations submitted by students, co-workers, and alumni. The award recipient is kept secret until it is announced at graduation.
“Recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award exemplify the best of LSSU,” said Interim LSSU Provost David Roland Finley. “They demonstrate command of their subject matter, explain difficult concepts clearly, utilize creative and innovative methods to engage students, generate excitement and enthusiasm for their subjects, maintain challenging learning standards, inspire their students, and serve as a role model.
“Paul has developed innovative curricular models that commonly focus learning activities in field locations like the Black Hills, Wisconsin Dells, Appalachian Mountains, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, and the Canadian Shield, to name a few,” added Finley. “As a result, many of his students have made significant research contributions to the field of geological science before graduating from LSSU.”
“It is my passion here to share what I learn to hopefully inspire my students,” Kelso said in accepting the honor. “What I enjoy most is watching my students go on in their careers. I also immensely enjoy working with the faculty and staff here. Thank you so much for this honor. I am very humbled.”
A member of the LSSU School of Physical Sciences since 1993, Kelso places an emphasis on active learning, real-life issues, and research experiences, which better prepare his students to be professional geoscientists working in private industry and to pursue graduate school opportunities.
Kelso has been a mentor for his students. His students examine geoscience problems such as environmental issues, water resources and associated sedimentary processes, mineral and energy resources, plate tectonic processes, and geologic hazards such as volcanoes and earthquakes.
Kelso involves a number of them in independent research projects. LSSU geology students have traveled with him to Australia, Idaho, Minnesota and numerous sites in Michigan and Ontario for field- and laboratory-based geologic research projects.
Nearly 100% of LSSU geology graduates in recent years were either accepted to graduate school or received job offers. Alumni, employers, and graduate schools all comment that LSSU geology graduates are generally better prepared than graduates from other universities.
Kelso, a native of Gaylord, Mich., and graduate of Gaylord High School, holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in geophysics from University of Minnesota, and a bachelor’s degree in geology from LSSU. He and his wife Amy, also from Gaylord, live south of Sault Ste. Marie. They have two daughters, Mary and Sara.
Dr. Joseph D. Susi II, 2017
Joseph Susi II, PhD, a 25-year teaching veteran who knows how to cure what ails you, received Lake Superior State University’s prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, April 29.
Susi, who started teaching in the LSSU Athletic Training Education Program in fall 1992, is a certified athletic trainer and director of the LSSU ATEP, teaching in the LSSU School of Recreation Studies and Exercise Science. Students, faculty, staff and alumni nominated him for the annual award, which, since 1971, has always been kept secret until it is announced during the graduation ceremony.
The award comes as no surprise to Prof. Susi’s students, who have nominated him in the past. They also selected him for the LSSU Excellence in Advising Award in 2014, nominating him for his caring, helpful attitude with his advisees, faculty and staff; his availability and frequency of contact with advisees; his skill at building strong relationships with his advisees while monitoring their progress toward academic and career goals; and his support for students seeking jobs or placements in graduate school after LSSU graduation.
“The characteristics of a distinguished teacher include command of the subject matter, the ability to explain difficult concepts clearly, to be innovative, and share excitement and enthusiasm, while maintaining challenging learning standards,” said Interim LSSU Provost David Roland Finley Ph.D. “This year’s recipient has a passion for teaching and consistently serves as an excellent role model for students and colleagues. He is always approachable and excels at showing students how to find the answers for themselves. He exhibits excellent ability in the classroom, an enthusiasm and love of the material, and excels at finding innovative teaching methods to bring to his students.”
Prof. Susi was further surprised to find out that his parents, Joe and Wanda, had cancelled a trip to Mexico to see him receive his award. They were accompanied by his brother Jon and sister-in-law Karen, all of whom traveled from Prof. Susi’s hometown in central Ohio for the ceremony.
“Thank you everyone. I appreciate the honor,” Susi said upon accepting the award. “The thing that’s hitting me right now is what the speakers have said today. They talked about sacrifice and support, and I have received that from my friends and colleagues, and from my wife Jody and from my parents, who apparently cancelled their trip to warmer beaches to be here. All of that summarizes the point our speakers have made today. Congratulations to the class of 2017 and thank you for letting me be a part of your day.”
Susi has always encouraged his students to become involved in professional meetings and educational opportunities, and has guided athletic training students to strong finishes in the Student Athletic Training Association Quiz Bowl competitions. LSSU athletic training students, accompanied by Susi and his colleagues, are a regular fixture at Special Olympics winter competitions in the northern Lower Peninsula, where they assist Special Olympians with medical issues.
Those who nominated him noted his skills as a mentor who challenges and inspires them. They also said in addition to being an exemplary teacher, he has guided the LSSU Athletic Training Education Program through the years and has worked with his colleagues to meet and exceed the requirements for keeping the program accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs with the National Athletic Trainers Association since 2003. In recent years, in his quest to improve his teaching abilities and those of his colleagues, he has assumed responsibilities as co-director of the relatively new Faculty Center for Teaching.
Susi is known for keeping in contact with alumni and following their careers through the years. While those alumni were students, it wasn’t uncommon to find Prof. Susi in his office during Christmas break or spring break to meet with students who needed his help and advice, or at the local hospital, checking up on injured or sick students.
Susi holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University in 1988 and a master’s degree from Indiana University in 1989. He earned a doctorate from Michigan State University in 2010. He and his wife, Jody, an LSSU alumna who teaches exercise science at LSSU, live in Sault Ste. Marie.
Janice Repka, 2016
The award has been presented to a member of the faculty since 1971, and the recipient is chosen by a committee of students with the highest grade point averages in their schools, as well as the five most recent recipients of the award who consider nominations from fellow faculty, students and alumni.
“A distinguished teacher demonstrates command of his or her subject matter, explains difficult concepts clearly, utilizes creative and innovative methods in order to engage students, generates excitement and enthusiasm for the subject, maintains challenging learning standards, and inspires students,” said LSSU Provost David R. Finley in announcing the award. “This year’s recipient is a well-published and award-winning author who has brought eight national award-winning writers to speak at LSSU, coordinates the Superior Children’s Book Festival, and oversees publication of Snowdrifts, LSSU’s annual arts and literary magazine.”
Repka joined the School of English and Language Studies as an assistant professor in 2011 from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., where, on top of a regular teaching load, she presented on-line courses in ethics, novel-writing, and English composition.
Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, published her Stupendous Dodge Fiasco in 2004. It was a Junior Literary Guild selection, won a Nebraska book award, and was nominated for awards in Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. She followed that with another Dutton-published book, The Clueless Girl’s Guide to Being a Genius, in 2011.
Those who nominated her for the award noted that she “possesses an exceptional ability to convey her enthusiasm and love of the material through innovative and resourceful teaching methods that create an inviting learning environment, engage students and encourage their active participation.” They also noted that she is “an inspiration to her students and colleagues…communicating the excitement of intellectual ideas to those she teaches and mentors.”
In her acceptance speech, Repka urged students to fight for what they believe is right, no matter the personal cost.
“Do not be afraid to speak and raise issues that concern you,” she said. “Be strong. Keep doing the right thing…Thank you for nominating me these past three years.”
In addition to writing middle grade fiction, Repka enjoys writing adult literary short stories and poetry. Her work has appeared in the Antietam Review, Writer’s Journal, The Louisiana Review, and Potomac Review, The Healing Muse, and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works.
Repka holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication from Point Park University, Pittsburgh, Penn.; a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania; and master’s degrees in creative writing and in English from McNeese State University.
Dr. John H. Roese, 2015
Dr. John Roese may not lead a wild life, but he knows a lot about wildlife and does an exceptional job of helping his students learn about it. In recognition of his superior skills in the classroom, the longtime biology professor was chosen to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award during Lake Superior State University’s commencement ceremony on May 2.
A committee of five of the most recent recipients of the award and graduating students with the highest grade point averages in their schools chose Roese based on nominations submitted by students, co-workers, and alumni. The award recipient is kept secret until it is announced at graduation.
“Recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award are members of the faculty who exemplify the best of LSSU,” said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth. “They demonstrate command of their subject matter, explain difficult concepts clearly, utilize creative and innovative methods to engage students, generate excitement and enthusiasm for their subjects, maintain challenging learning standards, inspire their students, and serve as a role model.
“This year’s recipient has been recognized by students as someone who is passionate about teaching, dedicated to the students, strict and tough, but fair, and wholeheartedly concerned about student learning,” Walworth continued. “His lectures are said to be, not only interesting and extremely well organized, but filled with personal and practical advice. Students say that he loves math and applies it in a meaningful way within his lectures and labs.
“Outside of the classroom, he holds seminars to help students build resumes, write cover letters, and prepare for interviews, and he discusses graduate studies.”
Those who nominated Roese for the award noted that his passion, knowledge and experience have enabled his students to gain appreciation for subject matters in which they may originally have held no interest. They also said he has an exceptional ability to have a lasting impact on the lives of his students because he cares about them, is always approachable and shows them how to find answers for themselves. Words used to describe him include “passionate, dedicated, respected, and inspirational.”
In addition to running a tight ship in the classroom, Roese is known for his contagious enthusiasm and sense of humor. He is also known for his preference to teach morning classes, a pleasure not always shared by his students. He joked with them about it when he came on stage to accept the award.
“I know some of you have struggled with the early morning classes – my favorite,” he said.
He also noted that there would be a quiz after the ceremony.
“Wow….I need to thank some people, starting with my wife. This is all for you,” he said. I also want to thank those who gave me this opportunity, my current colleagues for putting up with me for so many years, and my colleagues of fewer years, for reminding me of how much energy I used to have. I also must thank my parents and family, and of course the students, especially my students.”
Roese, a certified wildlife biologist, was hired to teach at LSSU in 1990, shortly after he earned a doctorate from Texas A&M University. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
He is the principal advisor for LSSU students majoring in wildlife management, and also advises students who select fisheries management or the combined fisheries and wildlife management degree option. He teaches quantitative biology, mammalogy, wildlife management, vertebrate anatomy, vertebrate embryology, animal nutrition and wildlife ecology. In addition to his teaching and advising responsibilities, he serves on the LSSU Curriculum Committee and is chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
Roese and his wife Lisa live in Sault Ste. Marie.
Herbert D. Henderson, 2014
Herb Henderson, a professor who has dedicated his life to law enforcement first as a police officer and now as a member of Lake Superior State University’s criminal justice faculty, has received the LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award.
The award was announced during the LSSU graduation ceremony today in Taffy Abel Arena, when nearly 600 students received degrees.
“This year’s recipient has been recognized by students as someone who is not just here to teach, but to change lives,” said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth in presenting the award recipient, who is kept secret until the announcement at graduation. “He truly wants students to embrace the concept of lifelong learning and has been praised by students for his dedication and conviction. He pushes and encourages students to do their best in lectures and in laboratory settings.”
Students who nominated Henderson called him “a true leader” who is always available to help out. They said he is an inspiration to his students, colleagues, and the community, setting the standard for excellence, demonstrating professional integrity, dedication to law enforcement, community and family.
Henderson was hired as a criminal justice instructor at LSSU in 2008 while serving as a sergeant with the Sault Ste. Marie Police Department. He was recently promoted to associate professor. He teaches courses in law enforcement, homeland security, public safety and criminal investigation, and has served as the proctor for Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Training Council with the LSSU Institute for Public Safety, as well as the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards proctor and lead instructor at LSSU. He has been the MCOLES academy director since 2011.
In addition to teaching, he is a member of the LSSU General Education Committee and the Student Leadership Scholarship Committee. In the community, he has been a member of his local school board and township board member and served 13 years on the board of the Northern International Crime Stoppers. He is a youth hockey coach as well as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Relay-for-Life.
This most recent honor isn’t the first time Henderson has been singled out for his work. He was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award several times and he received the LSSU Excellence in Academic Advising Award in 2012.
“Prof. Henderson demonstrates a passion for teaching and has established a reputation as an outstanding educator who epitomizes the hallmarks of the LSSU experience through a genuine concern and dedication to the education and well-being of each and every student,” said Walworth. “He is a leader among professionals in the criminal justice field, as well as in the faculty of LSSU. His dedication to maintaining the high quality of the MCOLES program ensures a strong hire rate and a solid reputation for LSSU graduates.”
Henderson received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from LSSU in 1994. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University, and is finishing up a doctorate from Northcentral University, Prescott, Ariz.
He and his wife, Alyce, have four children.
Deborah Choszczyk, 2013
A Lake Superior State University dance professor, who has left an indelible mark on the university and the community in her short time here, was chosen by LSSU students, faculty and staff to receive this year’s LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award.
Deborah Choszczyk, who started at LSSU as a part-time instructor in 2007, was cited for her passion for teaching and her abilities to convey her contagious enthusiasm and love of dance through innovative and resourceful teaching methods. In doing so, she creates an inviting learning environment that engages students both inside and outside the dance program.
The award, which is the university’s most prestigious honor for faculty, was kept secret until it was announced during LSSU’s graduation ceremony on Saturday. A committee of outstanding graduating seniors and past recipients of the award chose Choszczyk, who has been nominated for the award repeatedly since 2010, from a list of LSSU faculty nominated by students, employees and alumni.
Shortly after her arrival on campus, Choszczyk proposed a dance program of her creation that has grown quickly, attracting students from all fields of study. Her productions bring great crowds to the LSSU Arts Center. She gets everyone into the act, and in 2011 recruited LSSU President Tony McLain and his wife, Melissa, for parts in the first LSSU-produced ballet, “Coppelia.” She followed up in 2012 with a ballet that she wrote, choreographed and directed, titled “Les Fees de la Nuit,” or “Fairies of the Night,” a production that she said was inspired by her nights of camping in northern Michigan.
“Professor Choszczyk is an inspiration to her students, colleagues, and audience,” said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth in announcing the award. “She sets the standard for excellence, demonstrating professional integrity and communicating the appreciation for dance and expression to those she teaches and mentors.”
Immediately upon her arrival in the community, Choszczyk became well-known not only for her enthusiasm for her art, but also for the way she throws herself into community and national causes. She has raised funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, helped storm victims in the South, helped provide relief efforts for Haiti, and has undertaken many other charitable activities, including coaching community members and students who were competing in the Hospice of the EUP’s annual Dancing with the Stars fundraisers. She also brings her students to area schools to inspire youngsters to pursue dance and the arts in general.
Walworth said, “Prof. Deb demonstrates a passion for teaching and consistently serves as an excellent role model for her students as well as her colleagues, enabling her students through her support, encouragement and acceptance to push themselves to levels of achievement they would not have thought possible.”
Her encouragement, thoughtfulness and creativity are well known. Choszczyk told those she was coaching in Hospice’s Dancing with the Stars that “Miracles can happen in eight weeks!” and then proved it by turning them all into competent performers.
Choszczyk accepted her teaching award with the humility that her students and colleagues have come to expect from her.
“I just teach dance here at Lake State and I love it and I love the kids,” she said. “I love what I do and I could not have done it without the support of the administration, my colleagues, my students and the parents of my students.
“If I have any success at all, it’s because of the love I receive here at Lake State. It’s because of the love I receive here. I try to return it to my students, and I hope you know it. Thank you so much.”
A native of Midlothian, Ill., Choszczyk holds a bachelor’s degree in dance and theatre from Alma College and a master’s degree in education from Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn. Prior to coming to Sault Ste. Marie, she was active in the Marquette community in dance and choreography.
Choszczyk’s husband, Dan, shares her enthusiasm for dance and the arts and is a valuable backstage assistant at LSSU, working on props and creating production sets both for dance and theater productions.
Dr. Ashley H. Moerke, 2012
Ashley Moerke Ph.D., a faculty member known as both an accomplished scientist and professor by her students and colleagues, has been chosen as the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at Lake Superior State University.
The award was announced Saturday during LSSU’s annual commencement ceremony, when nearly 550 graduates received degrees.
Moerke is an associate professor of biology and co-director of the LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory. She started at LSSU in 2004, coming from University of Notre Dame, where she received her master’s and doctoral degrees in biology. She received a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from University of Minnesota-Duluth.
He research interests include stream and river ecology, restoration ecology, riparian-stream interactions, watershed ecology, fisheries ecology, water quality and biological assessment and nutrient enrichment. She is especially interested in the impacts that humans have on stream ecosystems and watersheds, how those impacts may be managed, and how degraded streams may be restored.
“This year’s Distinguished Teaching Award recipient has been described as an ideal role model for not only the students in her classes, but the faculty and others she works with daily,” said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth. “She has a unique ability to relate to students and to present information and difficult concepts in a way that is relevant and easy to understand. She has a genuine passion for the subject matter taught, causing students to be excited for class. She is kind and compassionate and genuinely cares about her students.”
Moerke’s excitement for her field of expertise is obvious to anyone who sits in her class, works with her in the field or speaks with her in general. Students who nominated her noted that as soon as she begins to teach, it is evident that she truly loves what she does and is willing to do everything she can to encourage students to find the same passion that she has for her field.
Moerke thanked her colleagues, family and friends for supporting her in her endeavors.
“My co-workers supported me from day one, when I arrived here and had no idea what I was doing or what I was supposed to do. They provided guidance and feedback on my successes and struggles and shared theirs as well,” she said. “Thanks also to my family and friends, who provide a wonderful support group and have put up with a number of working vacations, and to my husband, who puts up with my ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude and grounds me so that I’m not too much of a goofy scientist.
“And thanks to my students, who are awesome,” she added. “You are why I get up in morning and why I love what I am doing. I get so much from you guys.”
Moerke works to secure funding through grants, allowing her students to gain valuable field experience. Since coming to LSSU, she has been involved in a considerable number of studies in the region and beyond, including studies on the effects of environmental changes on fish in Michigan rivers and streams, influence of Pacific salmon on Great Lakes streams, distribution and habitat requirements of freshwater mussels in the Upper Peninsula, and lake sturgeon movement and habitat use in the St. Mary’s River.
She and her collaborators have also studied diet composition of double-crested cormorants in the upper Great Lakes, effects of large woody debris on stream fish communities, and stream food web dynamics in the Huron Mountain region. Shortly after her arrival on campus, she and five of her LSSU colleagues worked on an Environmental Protection Agency-funded study on the biotic integrity and habitat assessment of the St. Mary’s River.
She works with a wide variety of researchers from across the country in this work, including faculty and scientists from the Michigan and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Notre Dame, Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, and more. In addition, and in keeping with the undergraduate experience that helps LSSU’s science programs stand out, she provides a wealth of research opportunities for her students, some of whom are able to publish papers in scientific journals and present them at professional conferences.
Moerke teaches limnology, aquatic entomology, principles of watershed management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems, as well as working with students on their research topics required for graduation. In 2009, she and colleague Sally Childs Ph.D. led their students on a tour of sub-Sahara Africa, where her students studied ecology and management of the area.
Moerke spreads her love of biology in the community, as well. She and Sault Area High School Teacher Paul Pioczak are co-advisors for the high school’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl teams.
Outside of work, Moerke and her husband, Chris Scherwinski, enjoy kayaking, hiking, fishing and hunting.
The LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award has presented to faculty at graduation since 1971. The recipient demonstrates excellence in his or her field, creative and innovative teaching methods, generates excitement and enthusiasm, inspires students and serves as a role model. A committee of students, faculty, staff and past recipients chooses the recipient from nominations supported by examples of the faculty member’s work.
Dr. H. Russell Searight, 2011
Psychology professor H. Russell Searight has been teaching at Lake Superior State University for only four years, but it didn’t take him long to make a great impression upon his students. They, along with Searight’s faculty colleagues, have chosen him as this year’s recipient of the LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award.
LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth announced the award during commencement ceremonies on April 30 in Taffy Abel Arena. Searight was chosen by a committee of top students and past recipients of the award who reviewed nominations from LSSU students, employees and alumni. They keep the recipient’s identity secret until it is announced at commencement.
This year’s recipient has been described as someone who genuinely knows how to talk to and teach students,” Walworth said in his introduction of Searight. “He has been described as ‘amazing,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘approachable’ and ‘easy to talk to.’ It’s been said that his geeky ways inspire students. Nearly everyone mentioned that he made them feel comfortable and that he really listened to them and was always willing to help with problems. He makes students feel right at home; like being a part of a family.”
Walworth said the nominations for Searight outlined the outstanding teaching qualities that he has in common with past recipients of the award, which has been presented to LSSU faculty since 1971.
“A distinguished teacher is a member of the faculty who exemplifies the best of LSSU,” said Walworth. “A distinguished teacher demonstrates command of his or her subject matter, explains difficult concepts clearly, uses creative and innovative methods in order to engage students, generates excitement and enthusiasm for the subject, maintains challenging learning standards, inspires and serves as a role model.”
Upon receiving the award, Searight told the audience of thousands, including 500 LSSU graduates, that he considers himself fortunate.
“I just want thank you for the honor,” he said. “I consider myself a very fortunate person. When I’ve been coming to work here for the past four years, I’ve had the honor of working with a distinguished faculty, and it’s been an honor and a privilege to work with the students at Lake Superior State University.”
Searight, an accomplished psychologist who has written hundreds of research papers and book chapters, as well as three books, assured his students that he isn’t the only one doing the teaching when he meets with them in the classroom each day.
“One of greatest things about teaching is that I get to continue to learn,” he said. “I’m willing to bet that I have learned twice as much from you as you ever have from me.”
Searight holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, a master’s degree in public health, and a master’s degree in clinical psychology, all from Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Butler University in Indianapolis.
Searight taught at Saint Louis for 15 years and was director of Behavioral Medicine with Forest Park Hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program in St. Louis before coming to LSSU in 2007. In addition to teaching at LSSU, he teaches at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Searight is a licensed psychologist health service provider in the states of Missouri and Michigan and formerly operated a private practice in child, adult and family psychology for more than 10 years.
He has a great deal of experience as a consulting psychologist, staff psychologist and counselor, and has worked with a variety of clients, from children to adults, including veterans.
Searight is the author of three books and editor of another, including “Family of Origin Therapy and Diversity,” in 1998, “Behavioral Medicine: A Primary Care Approach,” in 1999 and “Parent Articles about AD/HD,” which he edited with two colleagues. His most recent publication is “Practicing Psychology in Primary Care,” written in 2010.
He has also been a reviewer for many publications, including “American Family Physician,” “Spanish Journal of Psychology,” and “British Medical Journal,” to name a few.
If his students think that he makes them write more than other professors, it could be because he has written more than 150 articles and book chapters related to his field — some of them with his wife, Barbara Searight Ph.D., who is associate dean of LSSU’s School of Education — and has presented dozens of research papers and many grant and research proposals.
Searight is a member of the Society of Teachers in Family Medicine, the American Psychological Association, and the Academy for Health Services Research.
He and his wife, Barbara, live in Sault Ste. Marie.
Dr. Andrew H. Jones, 2010
An electrical engineering professor who has the knack of turning digital electronics into an exciting topic was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at Lake Superior State University.
Andrew Jones Ph.D. received the award during commencement ceremonies today in LSSU’s Taffy Abel Ice Arena. The recipient, chosen by LSSU employees and students, is kept secret each year until announced during the ceremony.
“I’m speechless,” Jones said after being asked to come up to the stage to accept his award. Greeting his students, he said, “It has been a great privilege, no, an honor, to serve you…I enjoy interacting with you.”
Jones came to LSSU in 2005 from Purdue University, where he was teaching after earning his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering there in 2002. He received his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1993 and his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Texas at Austin in 1991.
“The Distinguished Teacher is a member of the LSSU community who exemplifies the best of our university,” said LSSU Provost Tony Blose. “This year’s recipient has been described as not just a professor, but also a mentor and role model. He has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival and has impressed students with his superior knowledge of subject matter, demonstrated great love of teaching, and boundless enthusiasm.”
Jones lists artificial intelligence and data mining, environmental sensors and renewable energies, computer vision and image processing as some of his academic interests. He teaches senior design classes, microcontroller fundamentals, intro to engineering, robotics engineering, honor thesis, digital systems design and many other classes. He serves on several LSSU committees, has been faculty advisor for the student IEEE chapter and the LSSU Pep Band, and a mentor for the Sault Schools FIRST Robotics Team.
Blose said Jones’ teaching style “has been described as ‘one of a kind’ and he has been appreciated for his motivation and constant support to assist students in reaching their potential in a very challenging discipline.”
Jones showed some of that boundless enthusiasm on stage, telling the audience, “Teaching is not just what you do in lecture; it’s the energy you bring…Digital electronics can be boring, but we can make exciting!”
He advised his students, “Find that passion and regardless of what your pay is, you’ll enjoy your life from here on out…It’s been a privilege to serve you and this community.”
Dr. Thomas A. Allan, 2009
A longtime biology professor who said he feels as if he is “an old man in a modern world” was chosen by his students and colleagues to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award at Lake Superior State University.
The award was announced during commencement ceremonies today that also featured presentations by novelist Steve Hamilton and class of 2009 student respondent Mark Herbert of Sault Ste. Marie. Nearly 600 graduates received more than 640 degrees during the annual graduation ceremony.
“This year’s recipient of the distinguished teaching award has been characterized as brilliant, enthusiastic, and very fair, able to explain information in ways that make you remember even the smallest details,” said LSSU Provost Scott Amos in introducing Allan while reading some of the remarks made by students who nominated him. “He has a keen sense of humor while remaining professional. Using whiteboards and multi-colored markers, this professor hits the ground running in every class, demonstrating interest in the subject and an eagerness to convey this knowledge in an unpretentious way.
“Perhaps his greatest strength, as noted by those who nominated him, is his ability to make a difference in the lives of students in many different majors throughout the university,” Amos continued.
The award is kept secret until it is announced at the graduation ceremony, so Allan and his colleagues were all surprised.
“When he used the world ‘brilliant,’ I thought that ruled me out right away,” said Allan when he came to the podium to address the audience. He then explained why it was pointed out that he teaches class with lectures, demonstrations and field work, as opposed to PowerPoint presentations or other modern technology.
“I don’t use PowerPoint presentations, I write on the board and my handwriting is not as good as it used to be. I don’t use Scantrons (computerized test scoring sheets) because I believe the world isn’t multiple choice. I don’t have a laptop computer and I believe blackberries are for making jam,” Allan said to the delight of his students and, it seemed, most in the crowd.
“I don’t have a Facebook page…I want my friends to come see me,” he continued. “I don’t have the slightest idea what ‘Twitter’ is, I don’t know how to text message…I hate cellphones. I think they’re a plague on modern society.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m an old man in a modern world, but someone must agree with me,” he said, referring to his students. “I am truly honored and humbled. Thank you.”
More than two dozen members of Allan’s family and friends were present for the ceremony.
Allan’s first job with LSSU was in keeping with his emphasis on teaching in the outdoor classroom; he was hired as coordinator of LSSU’s Vermilion Station, a former US Life-Saving Station on the remote Lake Superior shore approximately 12 miles west of Whitefish Point. While maintaining the biological station, Allan hosted student groups and field courses. He taught some biology courses part-time before being hired full time as an associate professor in biology in 1992.
Allan holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in forestry and wildlife from Michigan Technological University and a doctoral degree in wildlife ecology from University of Maine. He also studied at University of Minnesota’s Biological Station before coming to LSSU, where he teaches a variety of biology courses and specializes in ornithology.
Allan and LSSU alumnus Ned Canfield DO, who also is a former Vermilion coordinator, collaborated on a book, “Life on a Lonely Shore – A History of the Vermilion Point Life-Saving Station,” in 1991.
Since 1971, LSSU students, faculty and staff have presented the Distinguished Teaching Award to a professor who demonstrates command of his or her subject matter, inspires students and serves as a good role model for students and others. Nearly 30 LSSU faculty were nominated for the award this year, according to Amos.
“The number of nominations speaks well of the faculty as a whole, and I thank all of you for your excellent work,” he said.
Allan and his wife, Sharon, are the parents of a daughter, Erolia, and a son, Eli.
Dr. Kathy A. Berchem, 2008
Assistant Prof. Kathy Berchem, a 1997 alumna of LSSU, was presented with the award, the most prestigious honor given to LSSU faculty, during commencement ceremonies on May 3.
“The distinguished teacher is a member of the LSSU community who exemplifies the best of our University,” said Steve Merrill, LSSU dean of Nursing. “She uses creative and innovative methods to convey the subject matter and engage students in learning, and she conveys genuine caring and competence.”
A relative newcomer to the LSSU faculty, having been hired in January 2005, Berchem quickly earned the respect and admiration of her students and peers.
“Probably Kathy’s greatest strength is her ability to interact with students,” Merrill said. ”Student evaluations of her classroom and laboratory teaching are among the most positive for any faculty member. Several students have described her as their favorite professor at LSSU. Kathy does this while having very high expectations of student learning. Her courses are not easy.
“In the classroom, she is very effective at bringing in additional information to supplement and expand on the textbook material, and she clearly conveys enthusiasm and depth of knowledge of the subject matter,” Merrill continued.
Merrill said Berchem is highly competent in the laboratory as well, and draws upon her experience as a professional nurse when teaching her students.
“She goes beyond the technical demonstration of the material. She is an outstanding model of the behavior and values of a professional nurse while she is teaching. This is critical for this level of students, as they are at the beginning of their professional development and Kathy’s behavior is an excellent foundation for them.”
In accepting the award, Berchem recalled meeting chemistry professor Barb Keller, the 2002 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award, in her first year of teaching at LSSU.
”I remember meeting Barb Keller in the hallway at the end of the semester and asking her if she was excited for summer to be here. She said, ‘Yes, but I’ll miss the students.’ I’ve never forgotten that. Students have really become the focus of my teaching, and mentors have really helped me learn how to be a teacher. Thank you to all of you who have helped me along in this process. I really appreciate it; this is a culmination of what I really love to do.”
A native of Ontario, Berchem holds a bachelor of science in nursing from LSSU, a bachelor of arts in sociology from the University of Windsor, and a master of science in nursing, family nurse practitioner track, from Michigan State University. She is licensed to practice in Michigan and Minnesota, and came to LSSU from a position as nurse practitioner at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. In addition to her teaching, she continues practicing as a family nurse practitioner at Petoskey Family Medicine and volunteers her time at free clinics in Sault, Mich. and Sault, Ont.
Berchem’s husband, Michael, and more than a dozen family members and friends, were on hand to see her receive the award.
Dr. MaryAnne P. Shannon, 2007
Lake Superior State University students, faculty and staff have chosen longtime nursing professor MaryAnne Shannon Ph.D. as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
The award was announced during commencement ceremonies May 5 on campus. The program also included remarks from honorary doctorate recipients Louis B. Lukenda DDS, Sault, Ont., and Sen. Walter H. North, St. Ignace, as well as an address to the graduating class by student respondent Jeffrey Jakaitis, Rochester, Minn.
“A distinguished teacher is a member of the LSSU community who exemplifies the best of our faculty,” said Bruce Harger Ph.D., LSSU vice president for academic affairs and provost. “She is caring, compassionate and available to students, as well as being challenging, demanding and fair. A distinguished teacher is respected, cooperative, works well as a team member and contributes to the advancement of her program at the university.”
Students who nominated Shannon described her as a mentor, a leader, an inspirational role model and friend.
“This teacher’s constant support, encouragement and acceptance have enabled us to push ourselves further than we ever thought we were capable,” said one student. “Her calming words of ‘I know you can do this. You know this material,’ before an exam, or a reassuring email to her students on the darkest of days, when they feel they cannot complete what they have started, are reasons why we have inspiration to succeed and realize our potential.”
Another of her students said, “Her passion to instill pride and excitement in what she teaches is contagious. We will forever carry into our careers the countless daily lessons, values and ethical principles that she models. We can only hope to be as capable of inspiring others as she has inspired us.”
Harger noted that Shannon is “always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to find creative, challenging and innovative ways to help students learn difficult concepts easily,” and said she would give up Saturday mornings to help her sophomore students give foot massages in the community and would allow students use her arms to practice administering injections.
“I am proud to receive this award,” said Shannon, who has been teaching at LSSU since 1979. “I do it on behalf of the faculty I work with at this university…As one who has been here for a while, I can tell you that we have a lot of common values that we share as faculty. We value our teaching and we have a passion for it.”
Shannon thanked her students for allowing her to work with them.
“We value our students and our graduates. We’re proud of all of your accomplishments.”
Shannon, who received her doctoral degree in 2005 from Michigan State University, encouraged her students to keep learning throughout their careers.
Shannon holds an associate’s degree in child development from LSSU and received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from University of Michigan in 1975. She received a master’s degree in nursing from Wayne State University in 1979 and completed a post-master’s degree fellowship in geriatrics at the University of Michigan. Besides being a registered nurse, Shannon has held national board certification in gerontological nursing since 1991.
Her first permanent appointment to the LSSU faculty, after teaching adjunct, was in 1982. She took time off to raise her family, continue her education and practice in other areas, before accepting another fulltime appointment with the nursing faculty in 1991.
Shannon has worked as a nurse for the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Algoma Health Unit in Sault, Ont., the Chippewa County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Social Services, and Eastern U.P. Intermediate School District.
She and her husband, Patrick, have two sons.
James W.T. Moody, 2006
Lake Superior State University students have chosen longtime history and anthropology professor James W. T. Moody as recipient of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
The award was announced on Saturday during commencement ceremonies on campus, when nearly 650 students received degrees.
“The Distinguished Teacher is a member of the LSSU community who exemplifies the best of our University,” said LSSU Provost Bruce Harger in his introduction of Moody. He said a distinguished teacher is caring, compassionate, available to students, demanding but fair, and an expert in the field that he teaches.
Moody, a Fulbright Scholar who studied at University of London, came to LSSU in 1971 after teaching for seven years at Greenville College. The Rockford, Ill. Native holds a bachelor’s degree from Greenville and master’s degree in history from Michigan State University.
“When I began teaching here 35 years ago, I wondered how long my career would be,” Moody said as he accepted his award. “I have enjoyed every year…I extend my thanks to the committee of students and colleagues for this honor.”
Recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award are chosen by a committee comprising five of the most recent recipients of the award and graduating students who have the highest grade point averages in their schools. Nominations come from students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Students who nominated Moody said they appreciated his knowledge of his field and the passion he exhibited in his teaching.
“I took away knowledge of how to become the teacher that people admire, and hope that in my elementary education career that I will acquire some of the same attributes that will inspire others to become admirable teachers,” said one of his students.
“When I asked questions about why I was marked down on a test, he would answer that he expected much better of me,” said another student. “His expectations caused me to strive to write better essays and he showed me that I was capable of achieving more.”
A former student, now a college professor in Virginia, said Moody captivates his audience, especially with tales of his travels.
“His office is a treasure trove of statuary and artifacts and he provides unique insights about their many origins.”
Besides teaching at LSSU, Moody has been active in the community since his arrival in 1971. He served on the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission, was chairman of the Kincheloe Air Force Base Conversion Authority, and was a member of the former St. Mary’s River Regional Study Commission, as well as the Chippewa County Historical Society.
Sherilyn R. Duesing, 2005
Lake Superior State University staff members Kathy Danielkiewicz and Heather Ferguson, and faculty member Sherilyn Duesing have been chosen by their co-workers and students as recipients of employees of the year and distinguished teaching awards.
The awards are presented annually to a member of each of the university’s employee groups: faculty, Steelworkers union (food service, physical plant and clerical workers) and administrative/professional staff.
The award for Duesing, an assistant professor in the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, was announced during commencement ceremonies today on campus. The honors for Danielkiewicz, secretary for the School of Business, Economics and Legal Assistant Studies, and Ferguson, director of Advising and Retention, were announced during the annual LSSU Retirement and Service Awards program earlier in the semester.
The Distinguished Teaching Award has been presented to LSSU faculty since 1971. Students, faculty and staff submit nominations that are considered by a committee of students at the top of their classes and past recipients of the award. Bruce Harger Ph.D., LSSU vice president of academic affairs and provost, quoted from an essay and nomination for Duesing written by an education student.
“As a senior, I have had the pleasure of continuing to be taught by this professor, although I’m not sure if the word ‘taught’ captures the essence of my experience. I felt that I was being mentored. It was as if I was in a room with my colleagues and we were being guided by excellence; epitomized by the values and attributes of the professor…Henry Adams tells us that ‘A teacher affects eternity’ and I for one can assure you that Prof. Duesing has affected eternity through my life and the lives that I will touch as a teacher.”
Duesing has taught math at LSSU since 1984, when she was hired as an adjunct professor. She became a full time instructor in 1993 and was promoted to assistant professor in 1998.
She has helped develop course modules for pre-algebra and introductory algebra courses at LSSU and has assisted with the teacher education program as a mathematics liaison at Brimley Elementary School. She has served on several university committees, including the developmental education committee, in which she was chair, and the advising committee. She was also vice president of the LSSU Faculty Association.
Duesing received an associate’s degree from North Central Michigan College and a bachelor’s degree in education, with a mathematics major, from Central Michigan University. In 1998, she earned a master’s degree in mathematics education at Northern Michigan University, where she was also selected as the outstanding graduating graduate student in NMU’s Dept. of Mathematics and Science Education.
She has long been interested in mathematics education and has taught at the middle school and high school level before coming to teach at LSSU. Outside of teaching, she enjoys quilting, sewing, skiing and hiking. She and her husband Paul, an engineering professor at LSSU and also a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award, have three children, Alice, Sarah and Peter.
Dr. Richard T. Conboy, 2004
Richard Conboy, a 16-year veteran of the School of Social Sciences at Lake Superior State University, has been chosen by his students and peers as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
The award was announced during LSSU’s commencement exercises on Saturday in Taffy Abel Arena. The recipient is kept secret until it is announced at graduation each year. A committee of top students and former award recipients selects the Distinguished Teacher from nominations submitted during the spring semester.
“I’ll keep it very short,” Conboy said when his award was announced at the end of the two-hour ceremony. “Thank you very much. Congratulations and best wishes to the students and your future.”
LSSU’s commencement program included comments from Mitchel Irwin, director of the Michigan Department of Management and Budget and a 1974 alumnus; Tiffany Jastorff, student respondent; and Betty J. Youngblood, LSSU president.
“The Distinguished Teacher is a member of the LSSU community who models the best of our University, through service to students and a passion for learning,” said LSSU Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Bruce Harger in his introduction of Conboy at commencement. “One of the hallmarks of an LSSU education is the personal attention and the relationships that are built through the years. This year’s award recipient marches in those footsteps as well.”
A student who nominated Conboy had this to say about him:
“It is important for students far from home to have someone they feel they can talk to. Because he cares about his discipline; because he never condescends; because he is always courteous; because he keeps confidences; because he does not give us the answers but shows us how to find them; because he makes college tough, exciting and rewarding, I nominate him for the Distinguished Teaching Award.
“He makes a difference on our campus. I know this to be true because he has made a difference in my life. He is more than just available; he is involved. He sets a standard for others to follow. He has made a lasting impression…”
Conboy, hired at LSSU in 1988 as an associate professor in political science, has received nominations for the Distinguished Teaching Award many times over the years. His career at LSSU has been busy. In 1989, he was appointed associate coordinator of the Center for Social Research along with Prof. Susan Ratwik, a position he holds today. The center has assisted in research projects and surveys for a number of public bodies, including the city of Sault Ste. Marie. He received tenure in September 1991 and was promoted to professor in September 1993.
Conboy served three years as dean of the College of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences and returned to faculty status in July 1997, when he was named coordinator of the Graduate Studies and International Studies programs. During a sabbatical leave in the 1999-2000 academic year, he conducted an extensive examination, which will result in a manuscript of Sen. Phil Hart’s political career.
Conboy and his wife, Ronnie, have two children, Matthew and Anna.
Student Respondent Tiffany Jastorff of Pierre, South Dakota was introduced by Biology Professor Steve Person, himself the recipient of the LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award in 1979. Person called his introduction his “last official act” on campus since he is retiring after 31 years of service.
“I can’t imagine a better last task than to introduce Tiffany Jastorff,” Person said.
Jastorff, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in biology, encouraged students in an “entertaining, short and sweet” speech to “do what makes you happy. Have confidence in your abilities, even if no one else does.”
For the “sweet” part of her speech, Jastorff asked her fellow grads to reach under their seats, where she had taped a Tootsie Roll under each one.
Nearly 700 graduates, LSSU’s fourth largest class, received diplomas on Saturday.
Dr. Deborah K. Stai, 2003
Biology professor Deborah Stai received Lake Superior State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 3, 2003 at Taffy Abel Arena.
A biology professor known for her abilities to challenge and instill confidence in her students is the recipient of Lake Superior State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Deborah Stai Ph.D., professor of biology, received the award during commencement ceremonies on May 3 at LSSU. She was nominated by students and employees and then chosen from a group of nominees by a committee of the five most recent recipients of the award and graduating students with the highest grade point average in their colleges.
Stai, hired at LSSU in 1991, has a background in microbiology and medical technology. She holds a doctoral degree in clinical microbiology from Union Institute and a master’s degree in biology from Mankato State University. She earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and medical technology from Mankato, also.
Before coming to LSSU, she was clinical instructor of microbiology and immunology at University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She also taught for six years as an associate professor in the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Department at Ferris State University and worked for several years at Arkansas College and Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has worked as a medical technologist and enzyme research technologist.
“One of the hallmarks of an LSSU education is personal attention and the relationships that are built through the years between teachers and their students,” said Bruce Harger Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Dr. Stai exemplifies that and is able to convey her knowledge with a personal style and delivery that nurtures the student’s desire to learn and explore. All recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award believe in the power of ideas and in the power of the individual. They truly make a difference in the lives of their students.”
This isn’t the first time Stai has been nominated for the award. She has been nominated several times in the past at LSSU and was also nominated in 1988 at Ferris State.
“Dr. Stai is always challenging us to be our best and has more confidence in students than we do in ourselves,” said one student nominator. “Whenever I think something can’t be done, she gets behind me, pushes a little, and before I know it, I’ve accomplished something that I didn’t think I could.”
Another student said alumni have credited Stai for putting them ahead of their graduate school classmates by the preparation she provided for them.
“Dr. Stai not only provides students with a vast amount of information, but she always presents the most current research, which is not an easy task in this rapidly changing field. She also presents additional information specific to a student’s particular career track,” said another student.
Other students said Stai’s enthusiasm and interest in her profession and fields of study show in her presentation.
“She makes learning fun and always tries to keep students interested by choosing different teaching methods, such as playing “Jeopardy” as a review before tests.”
“Dr. Stai and her colleagues represent the heart of our university,” said LSSU President Betty J. Youngblood Ph.D. “They are fully committed to our students.”
The announcement of the Distinguished Teaching Award was one of the highlights of the 2003 commencement ceremony, which saw more than 750 graduates receive degrees. The program included presentation of an honorary doctorate to Sault Ste. Marie’s W.W. “Frenchie” LaJoie, chairman of the board and CEO of Central Savings Bank, as well as remarks from student respondent Alice Duesing, LSSU women’s basketball standout and co-recipient of the outstanding mechanical engineering student award. Also during the ceremony, LSSU’s Board of Trustees formally installed Youngblood as LSSU’s fifth president.
The distinguished teacher is chosen from nominations submitted by LSSU employees and students by a committee of the top graduating students and past-recipients of the award. The recipient is kept secret until he or she is named at commencement.
Dr. Barbara J. Keller, 2002
Chemistry professor Barbara Keller received Lake Superior State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 4, 2002 at Taffy Abel Arena.
It didn’t take Barbara Keller PhD long to settle into her position as assistant professor of chemistry at Lake Superior State University.
She came to LSSU in 1999 from Montana to accept a job that she said she hoped would allow her to work more closely with students while continuing research in her field. Not only did she find what she was looking for, but she became an instant hit with her students and colleagues. Today, at LSSU commencement exercises, Keller’s students and peers recognized her for her work by presenting the LSSU Distinguished Teacher Award to her.
“The Distinguished Teacher is always a member of the professorate who is not only an excellent teacher, but also demonstrates dedication and service to students,” said Don McCrimmon PhD, LSSU executive vice president and provost. “Distinguished teachers have mastered the ability to explain often complex material and complicated concepts to their students. They are role models, demonstrating professional integrity and communicating the excitement of intellectual ideas to those they teach and to whom they are mentors.
“Dr. Keller displays all of these attributes and more,” he added. “She is widely respected and admired.”
“I am overwhelmed,” Keller said upon taking the stage to receive the award.
She thanked her students, saying, “You’re what makes my life complete. I’ve had a lot of jobs in different places but I’ve never had such a position as this. I love it and it’s because of you. I’ve always wanted to teach. Lake State gave me an opportunity and I am so very grateful.”
Keller’s students and fellow professors lauded her for making herself available to them at all times, for working diligently and patiently with students who have trouble understanding material, and for being enthusiastic and passionate about her work.
One of her scientific colleagues said, “She has succeeded on a national level for the most competitive and hard-won grants.”
Within the past year, Keller and colleague Rick Back PhD secured a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer. The instrument will be housed in a ‘clean-room’ facility in Crawford Hall, where Keller, Back and their students will use it to measure heavy metals at the part-per-trillion level of concentration from samples of water and sediments collected from the St. Mary’s River. The clean room is being set up on campus and the instrument will arrive later this month. Students will take a class where they will be taught the theory behind the instrument, as well as how to operate it and use it for research.
Keller came to LSSU from Butte, Montana, where she was analytical division chief and assistant research professor with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, a Montana Tech department with the University of Montana. She was also an inorganic research chemist with the bureau, and was a principal scientist with the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
Keller has taught inorganic chemistry courses at University of Idaho – Idaho Falls and general and electrochemistry laboratories at Montana State University, Bozeman.
She earned a doctoral degree in analytical and inorganic chemistry at Montana State and three bachelor’s degrees – in chemistry, medical technology and microbiology – from Idaho State University.
The distinguished teacher is chosen from nominations submitted by LSSU employees and students by a committee of the top graduating students and past-recipients of the award. The recipient is kept secret until he or she is named at commencement.
Kevin S. Schmaltz, 2001
Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz received Lake Superior State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 5 at Taffy Abel Arena.
Schmaltz, a native of New Jersey who began teaching at LSSU in 1997, was selected by a committee of former recipients of the award and 12 graduating seniors with the highest grade point averages in their class. Recipients of the award are nominated by LSSU students and employees.
“He is not only an excellent teacher, he is known for his dedication and service to students,” said Don McCrimmon, LSSU executive vice president and provost. “He has mastered the ability to explain often complex material and complicated concepts. He is widely respected. Those who nominated him included traditional students, older students, student athletes and his colleagues.”
Schmaltz’s students noted that he strives to be well prepared for class and works to improve his teaching skills. They applauded him for his availability to his students and co-workers.
His fellow faculty members noted that Schmaltz loves new ideas and responds to challenges of leadership with a team-oriented approach.
The four-year professor has made a distinct impression since arriving at LSSU from Carnegie Mellon University, where he received his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering. He quickly became chair of the department of mechanical engineering and has served as coordinator of the department’s Introduction to Engineering and Senior Projects courses. He has worked to continually improve the mechanical engineering curriculum and the assessment process for engineering.
In accepting the award, Schmaltz thanked his colleagues and especially his wife Pam, an adjunct faculty member in the LSSU College of Engineering and Mathematics and faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers student group.
“I’m really only the second-best teacher in my family,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Schmaltz has been singled out for his excellence in teaching. In April 2000, he received the Michigan Association of Governing Boards award for teaching at a ceremony in Lansing.
Besides his CMU doctorate, Schmaltz holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree, also in mechanical engineering, from Tulane University. Prior to coming to LSSU, Schmaltz worked for eight years at Shell Offshore Inc., New Orleans, as a production engineer, surveillance engineer and senior facilities engineer, and for FMC Corp. and Leeds and Northrup Consulting, both in Pittsburgh.
Also during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, in which more than 700 students received degrees, Richard Barch of Ann Arbor was presented with an honorary doctorate, Sault native Tracy Haller West was honored with the Paul Ripley Young Alumna Award, and student Maja Pusara of Sarajevo, Bosnia addressed her graduating class.
Jim Sherman, 2000
Jim Sherman received an extra special retirement gift during commencement ceremonies on Saturday at Lake Superior State University.
The accounting professor of 29 years was selected by his students and colleagues as this year’s recipient of the LSSU Distinguished Teaching Award. The award is kept secret until it is announced at commencement each year.
“Jim is considered to be highly professional by both students and colleagues,” said Don McCrimmon, Ph.D., LSSU Executive Vice President and Provost, in announcing the award. “He is an expert teacher who draws upon experience to show students the application of the theory. His philosophy and attitude are inspirational, and he tends to bring out the best in students.”
“He is fair and honest,” McCrimmon continued. “He is the most friendly and helpful faculty member in the College of Business and Economics, and perhaps the University.”
One of the students who nominated Sherman for the award called him “…a role model to aspire to” and said he is considering following Sherman’s lead to become an educator so he may have a positive influence on the lives of students.
An alumnus of Lake State – he attended from 1959-1961 – Sherman received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northern Michigan University, and a master’s degree in accounting from Southern Illinois University. He is a certified public accountant.
He was hired at LSSU in September 1971 as an assistant professor in the Business Administration Department, earning tenure in 1976.
“Jim has certainly been a credit to this institution,” said LSSU President Robert Arbuckle, Ph.D. “He has been one of the builders of academics here at Lake State.”
Sherman expressed surprise in accepting the award, but said he will forever savor the day and that he shares the honor with his students.
Sherman and his wife, Judith, have six children. Upon his retirement, they will be leaving Sault Ste. Marie to settle in eastern Tennessee.
A committee comprised of the five most recent recipients of the award, as well as several graduating seniors with the highest grade point averages in their class, chooses the current award recipient from the nominations submitted by LSSU employees and students.
Also during commencement ceremonies, former Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld was issued an honorary degree, alumnus Dan Goodrich of Cedarville received the Paul Ripley Award for Young Alumni, and senior Sophia Chandauka of Zimbabwe addressed the graduating class.
Dr. John E. Erkkila, 1999
Dr. Gary R. Johnson,1998
Paul R. Duesing, 1997
Dr. M. Carole Connaughton, 1996
Dr. Madan Saluja, 1995
Carol A. Campagna, 1994
Dr. Sally A. Childs, 1993
James P. Madden, 1992
Dr. William L. Haag, 1991
Dr. Susan H. Ratwik, 1990
Dr. David J. Behmer, 1989
Dimitri Diliani, 1988
Rosa Kavanaugh, 1987
Robert M. Money, 1986
Dr. Margaret A. Malmberg, 1985
Michael J. Flynn, 1984
Paul W. Wilson, 1983
Dr. Timothy J. Sawyer, 1982
Dr. Edeltraute Vialpando, 1981
Dr. Bernard J. Arbic, 1980
Dr. Steven J. Person, 1979
Larry A. Schneider, 1978
Dr. Thomas Kelly, 1977
Dr. Arthur Duwe, 1976
Thomas Mickewich, 1975
Gerald Samson, 1974
David Blair, 1973
Margaret Howe, 1972
C. Ernest Kemp, 1963
Raymond Chelberg, 1958