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Three professors honored for excellence in teaching

Sept. 8, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will present its 2010-11 Distinguished Teaching Award to Dr. Grace C. Tiffany, professor of English; Philip G. Walcott, professor of physician assistant; and Dr. Stephen M. Wolfinbarger, professor of music.

Photo of Grace Tiffany, Philip Walcott and Stephen Wolfinbarger.

Being named a Distinguished Teacher is the highest honor the University bestows on faculty members for their work with students. This year's recipients will be honored during WMU's Academic Convocation, set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The annual event will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address as well as the presentation of several other campuswide awards honoring this year's Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Emerging Scholar, Distinguished Service and Make A Difference award recipients.

WMU's Distinguished Teaching Awards program was launched in 2006 to honor up to three full-time faculty members each year. Tiffany, Walcott and Wolfinbarger will join eight other faculty members who have been honored since the award program's inception. A similar honors program, the WMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence program, ran at the University between 1966 and 2001 and honored 131 faculty members during that time.

Dr. Grace Tiffany

Tiffany's distinguished career includes teaching a wide range of courses from Renaissance poets and playwrights to American travel narratives. A novelist as well as an educator, her work in and out of the classroom teaching Shakespeare stands out with both her students and her colleagues. The accomplishments for which she was lauded include her field trips to Chicago each year to the Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier and being chosen by the Modern Language Association to co-edit a guide to teaching one of Shakespeare's comedies.

One former student commented, "I have never had more fun learning Shakespeare. Group discussions, laughter, snacks and conversation were staples of class…Tiffany created this wonderful learning environment where every student thrived." She also was tireless in her devotion to teaching, another former student explained. "I felt she worked almost as hard on reading and commenting on my writing as I had worked to produce it." Similarly, her colleagues praise her as "well-known and widely published."

Tiffany has been a faculty member at WMU since 1995. She earned a bachelor's degree from Duke University in 1979 and her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Notre Dame in 1985 and 1989, respectively. Prior to joining the WMU faculty, she taught at Fordham University and the University of New Orleans.

Philip Walcott

Walcott has the reputation of being the first faculty member at the college in the morning and often the last to leave in the evening. His passion for teaching is widely noted, and many describe him as tireless, organized, efficient, knowledgeable, inspiring and creative.

Students appreciate his energy in teaching his courses in anatomy, occupation and speech therapy. He has served as class advisor, helping students organize a chapter of the Student Association of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, encouraging their participation in the Annual National Medical Bowl, coaching them in a Relay for Life team that raised more than $11,000 for cancer research, and guiding a drive that donated 200 children's books to a homeless shelter.

Walcott has been a faculty member at WMU since 2005. He is a 1984 graduate of Aquinas College with a bachelor's degree in biology. He graduated from Grand Valley State University in 1990 with a master's degree. Prior to coming to WMU, he taught at GVSU and Grand Rapids Community College.

Dr. Stephen M. Wolfinbarger

During his more than 20 years teaching trombone at WMU, Wolfinbarger has inspired and trained many students who have gone on to win major solo competitions at such places as the Julliard School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Tanglewood, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the U.S. Army Band. In 2009, he received an International Trombone Association Award honoring his career as a teacher and mentor.

His students praised his teaching saying, "Lessons with him were always artistically satisfying, intellectually stimulating…and truly inspirational." His knowledge and understanding of all the workings of the profession, from concerts to summer internships and fellowships, has helped make students successful and develop their music. "Students have continued to grow in their love for their craft, and in their ability to approach music as a creative endeavor," one student explained.

A WMU faculty member since 1986, Wolfinbarger earned his bachelor's degree from Evangel University, his master's degree from North Texas University and his doctoral degree from the University of North Texas.

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Media contact: Deanne Puca, (269) 387-8400, deanne.puca@wmich.edu

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