Two to receive WMU's Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will present its 2014-15 Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award to Dr. E. Rozanne Elder and Dr. John Jellies.

The honor is the highest annual award WMU bestows on faculty members. It pays tribute to individuals whose work constitutes a significant body of achievement that is widely recognized within the national and international academic communities.

Elder and Jellies will be recognized during this year's academic convocation at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. The event also will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address and presentation of four other prestigious campuswide honors: the Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching, Emerging Scholar and Annual Make a Difference awards.

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder


Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Elder is a professor of history and director of what is now the Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies in WMU's Medieval Institute. She has organized the center's annual Cistercian Studies Conference since 1973 and also served as editorial director of Cistercian Publications until 2008. Since 2008, she has continued to organize the annual Cistercian Studies Conference as a component of the University's world renowned International Congress on Medieval Studies held on campus each May.

Elder's research focuses on the history of medieval intellectual traditions and the history of Christianity with a specialization in monasticism. In addition to editing more than 250 Cistercian Publications volumes, she has written scores of scholarly articles and book chapters as well as presented lectures and workshops at prestigious institutions at home and abroad.

Nominators lauded Elder for ensuring that the Cistercian center is known and respected around the globe and for enhancing WMU's international reputation in the fields of Cistercian and monastic studies, along with related fields such as archaeology, theology, ecclesiastical and intellectual history, and comparative religious studies. Nearly all stressed that she has had a profound impact on four important fronts: editing and publishing, research, collaboration, and mentorship.

One WMU colleague nominating her wrote that just mentioning Kalamazoo brings instant recognition among scholars, in large part because of the annual Cistercian Studies Conference and the vast number of seminal texts, monographs and collected essays that Elder organized, edited and cultivated as the editor of Cistercian Publications.

"She has marshaled her considerable energy, enthusiasm, organizational skills and academic talents to developing new ideas, encouraging the growth of the discipline and elevating the quality of its scholarship," the colleague wrote. "By naming her a Distinguished Faculty Scholar, WMU would acknowledge the leadership and recognition she has already attained around the world."

Elder was praised especially for bringing some 300 texts to publication while at the same time participating fully in teaching and research, contributing to the ongoing development of the Medieval Institute's academic program, building an impressive body of her own scholarly work, and supporting the careers of countless others.

In addition, many nominators described Elder as uniquely responsible for greatly enriching the materials available to researchers, teachers, religious communities and general readers, even as radical changes have taken place in academic publishing. They also praised the unique collaboration and intellectual interchange she has generated between secular scholarly communities and religious communities.

"I want to emphasize that Rozanne Elder can be looked upon as the keystone holding together monastic and especially Cistercian studies not only in North America, but also in the world at large," an emeritus professor from Roskilde University in Denmark wrote. "She has been a central link in establishing at Western what is unique in academic life in North America: an academic milieu which profits from the presence of people living the life that is being studied, the monks and nuns who year after year come to Kalamazoo for the Cistercian Studies Conference, and who make their knowledge and experience available to lay scholars."

Several nominators noted that they first met Elder as graduate students. They wrote that she inspired them to pursue a career in Cistercian or medieval studies and has mentored them ever since. As one former graduate student put it, "She has encouraged hundreds of scholars young and old, lay and monastic, from all continents, contributing directly to the building of their careers."

In summing up Elder's extraordinary four decades at WMU, one history department colleague noted that the University is known the world over as an exemplary locus of research and scholarship on the Middle Ages.

"Erudite scholars on the WMU faculty have contributed to this reputation," he wrote. "While many have come and gone, Roxanne Elder has devoted an entire career to excellent scholarship and to fostering the work of American and international colleagues and students."

Dr. John Jellies


Dr. John Jellies

Jellies is a professor of biological sciences who has been a WMU faculty member since 1995. He uses experimental approaches with model systems, most recently medicinal leeches, to answer questions related to brain function or more specifically, how the nervous system controls behavior. This career-long work and has generated nearly $4 million in grant dollars from national funding agencies.

Professionally active on and off campus, Jellies has served in such capacities as president of the WMU Faculty Senate as well as the Michigan Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. In addition, he has been an invited faculty member or speaker at prestigious institutions such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation, and an editorial board member or manuscript reviewer for several leading journals.

Emphasizing that Jellies is a world renowned researcher, nominators cited him for cutting-edge discoveries made before and after coming to WMU. One praised him for his ability "to bring ideas to practical fruition that directly benefit mankind." Many also noted that dozens of Jellies' peer-reviewed manuscripts have been published in leading journals, with an almost unprecedented seven of them featuring his work on their covers.

In addition, supporters lauded Jellies for his inventiveness in surpassing technical difficulties that have stymied other researchers and for continuing to maintain a superlative level of creativity and scholarship throughout his three-decade career.

"One former colleague at the University of California, Berkeley wrote that Jellies stands alone among present-day physiologists for the skill, dedication and precision with which he carries out his groundbreaking work and called him "a unique treasure as an experimentalist."

Meanwhile, a fellow graduate student from 30 years ago reported that, "Dr. Jellies has built a remarkable career that has produced a number of major discoveries. His dedication, technical expertise, persistence, enthusiasm and talent for experimentation have all contributed to his wide reputation as an accomplished neuroscientist."

Jellies also was cited for being an inspired teacher, instructor and advisor who consistently teaches more classes than required and who has directly mentored scores of students in his research lab.

"Professor Jellies is a superlative teacher. He leveraged his broad range of research accomplishments and life experiences to provide an outstanding learning experience for his students," a former student wrote. "His love of learning and his joy of sharing his knowledge were evident to me and his students during every minute of his class meetings. I can attest firsthand to Dr. Jellies' genuine and unselfish desire to help those around him reach their potential. He went out of his way to share his talents and passion for research with us."

Most nominators also praised Jellies as someone who has provided exemplary service to WMU, his discipline and academia. "Good research alone does not make a great faculty member. John has also been recognized for great work in both service and teaching," one WMU Faculty Senate colleague wrote. "More precisely, [greatness] is in John's ability to work with people; his networking with individuals, industry and educational institutions; and his dedication to those he serves."

In summing up Jellies, one of his former teachers at Texas A&M University called him one of the finest scientists he has ever met and wrote that, "What characterizes John Jellies' work is a remarkable ingenuity in finding tractable but interesting problems, an amazing ability to use simple but elegant approaches, a set of hands that would make him the world's most gifted microsurgeon, an artistry that manages to picture the true elegance and beauty of nature, and an intelligence to make sense of it all."

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