Celebration of teaching: Trio honored for excellence

Feb 24, 2012

Dr. Bing, Dr. Lepeley, Dr. CollarA month of highlighting academic excellence at Heidelberg culminated Friday night with the presentation of three annual faculty awards and the successful conclusion of the 19th annual Student Research Conference earlier in the week.

During a dinner with the Board of Trustees, three faculty members were honored for their research, teaching and commitment to the humanities.

The recipient of the Ream-Paradiso Distinguished Teaching Award is Dr. Doug Collar, associate professor of English and associate dean of the Honors Program. Collar joined the Heidelberg faculty full time in 2008 after a 30-year teaching career in Okemos, Mich., during which he won numerous teaching awards.

In his remarks, Collar reflected on his would-be career as a tool-and-die maker, a family trade. But at age 9, his father gave him a 1929 edition of “Tom Sawyer.” “That was it for my tool-and-die career,” he joked.

Dr. CollarGrowing up in Tiffin and on campus significantly impacted Collar’s life and career. “Without Heidelberg’s presence in my life … I doubt I’d be standing here and enjoying my life,” he said. He paused to give credit to two of his mentors and noted that each of us “is a product of teachers who taught and inspired us.”

An author and jazz aficionado, Collar began a 31-year “second career” as producer-host of jazz programming at Michigan State University Public Radio as an outgrowth of his lifelong passion for jazz. In 1982, he received an NPR grant to produce “Musical By-Lines,” about famed composers and lyricists. A year later, he was the host of the first FM-cable television simulcast from The Village Market Jazz Club in East Lansing.

Throughout his life, Collar has been equally as passionate about teaching. His students inspire and teach him daily. He also expressed appreciation for his colleagues “especially in Pfleiderer who challenge and inspire me every day.”

“Heidelberg is as good as there is in this country,” he said.

Dr. BingDr. John Bing, who joined the Heidelberg faculty in 1975, is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Scholarship/Research Award for Faculty. The professor of political science, criminal justice and anthropology was recognized for his long career of applied contract research for non-profits, private companies, government entities and political candidates. He maintains an active schedule of presenting at conferences across the country and also conducts original research regarding election surveying. In the past year alone, he was a discussant for several panels at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference in Chicago, the Ohio Economics and Political Science Annual Meeting and the Midwest International Studies Conference in St. Louis.

Another area of research involves random telephone election surveys, which he has conducted since the 1970s; he often involves his students in the process. In addition, he is an award winning poet.

Bing said he has been motivated toward research because of his father’s view that it is a moral and ethical responsibility. “It is in mentoring and working with students (in this regard) that I make my greatest contribution to the university,” he said.

He described the unraveling of problems and mysteries of research more like re-search -- to search again and rediscover.

Dr. LepeleyDr. Cynthia Lepeley, professor of Spanish since 1998, is the recipient of the 2011-12 Jane Frost Kalnow Professorship in the Humanities. In addition to her teaching, Lepeley is certified as a medical interpreter and a court interpreter in Ohio and Michigan. On campus, she has organized an annual student trip to south Texas. “Service Learning on the U.S./Mexico Border,” where she and her students serve as volunteers for a summer children’s program in three Mexican immigrant communities.

Accepting the award, Lepeley described struggles to make languages accessible. Educators have to provide scaffolding, she said. “With all the time we spend trying to make language more accessible, we need to reach down and help students climb up to the next level.”

She is a self-described “student of the humanities.” In her work as an interpreter, her learning has been stimulated by the challenges of learning the nuances of the job. “This is a very exciting time to be a student of language,” she said. “Interpreting is very exciting; it integrates lots of discovery in the humanities.” Interpreters, she added, need to be versed not only in language skills but in legal and ethical issues as well.

It’s important, Lepeley said, that educators pass their own zest for learning on to their students. “One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is our excitement for learning.”

The evening truly was one to celebrate teaching excellence. Provost Dr. David Weininger, who emceed the event, said the award winners – past and present – mean more to Heidelberg than can be summed up in their bios, and thanked them for their many contributions. “These individuals are role models for future faculty and also students,” he said. “It is on their shoulders that the quality of the academic enterprise rests.”

Weininger concluded the evening by announcing that next year, Heidelberg will create and present a fourth faculty award, the Innovative Teaching Award, that will honor a professor for creative use of technology or pedagogy in the classroom.