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April 8th Convocation Will Honor Outstanding U of M Faculty; Sparks Eminent Faculty Award Recipient is Dr. Thomas K. Fagan

For release: March 31, 2011
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

The University of Memphis will honor faculty members’ contributions to research, teaching, and advising during the 24th Annual Faculty Convocation on Friday, April 8.  The awards ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. in the Rose Theatre on the campus. 

Before the gathering, faculty members, dressed in full academic regalia, will process through the heart of the campus, beginning at 1:45 p.m. at the College of Communication and Fine Arts and ending at the Rose Theatre.

The convocation is the culmination of Faculty Scholarship Week, April 4-8, which highlights the work of the U of M faculty.  From April 4 to April 7, examples of their work will be on display in the rotunda of the McWherter Library; on the day of convocation, it will be on display at the Rose Theatre.

Dr. Thomas Kevin Fagan
Dr. Thomas Kevin Fagan
The premier recognition given to a professor is the Willard R. Sparks Eminent Faculty Award.  This year’s recipient is Dr. Thomas Kevin Fagan, professor of psychology.  He will receive an etched crystal obelisk and a cash award of $20,000.

Four Distinguished Research Awards from the U of M Alumni Association will be given to Cary Holladay, Lorelei Corcoran, Dr. Charles Blaha, and Dr. Abby Parrill.

Four Distinguished Teaching Awards from the Alumni Association will honor Emin Babakus, Cathy Dice, Antonia de Velasco, and Margaret Vandiver.

Distinguished Advising Awards, also from the Alumni Association, will go to two recipients, Anna Bess Sorin and Marion Chiles Powless.

The Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award recipients this year are Charlene Spiceland and Dr. John Haddock.

The Allen J. Hammond Presidential Service Award will be presented to Bruce Harber, director of Police Services.

Details about the award winners follow:

Willard R. Sparks Eminent Faculty honoree Dr. Thomas Kevin Fagan began his career at the University of Memphis in 1976, when he joined the faculty as an associate professor of psychology.  He was promoted to full professor in 1980.  Before joining the U of M faculty, he taught psychology at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.  He was also a visiting lecturer at John Carroll University in Kent.

Dr. Fagan holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree and a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degree, both in school psychology.  He received his degrees at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. His areas of specialty in school psychology include its history and development, accreditation, credentialing, and professional issues.

Colleagues who recommended Dr. Fagan for the Eminent Faculty honor all spoke of him and his career in superlatives.  “Few, if any, know as much as he about school psychology.  No one knows more about its history.”  Via the textbook he wrote, “the majority of school psychologists trained in the past 20 years have been welcomed into the field by Dr. Fagan.”  “He is one of the most well-known, respected, and liked figures in school psychology today.”  “Tom has virtually singlehandedly researched and written (the) history of an entire field – school psychology.”  “I believe that Professor Fagan has the highest name recognition and universal respect compared to all school psychologists in the U.S...”  “The University of Memphis should be proud to have hired, nurtured, and retained this exceptional member of your community.”  “(He is) one of the founding fathers of school psychology.

At the same time, many of them referred to Dr. Fagan’s “...affable manner (which) nicely compliments his sharp intellect.” Another cited his “personal and effective teaching, advising, and mentoring of students...”  “He is greatly respected and loved by his students...”  “Tom is a man of great integrity, honesty, and humility...”  “His encouraging, kind, interpersonal style facilitates strong relationships with students, which often extends years past their graduate career.”  “He is a model citizen within and outside of the University of Memphis.”  “...he improved his neighborhood and brought together highly diverse people.”  “In his honor ... Memphis ... declared Feb. 19 as ‘Tom Fagan Appreciation Day.’ ”

Dr. Fagan has served as a consultant to a number of school systems and colleges, including the College of Santa Fe in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Ohio State University, the Louisiana State Department of Education, and municipal school systems in cities throughout Illinois.

He has published widely, including six books and hundreds of monographs and journal articles. He has also served in several editorial capacities with professional newsletters and journals.  He was editor of Communiqué, the official newsletter of the National Association of School Psychologists from 1981 to 1987, and he has been consulting editor for History of Psychology since 1997.

He currently serves as co-chair of the Historic Preservation Committee of the International School Psychology Association and as historian of the National Association of School Psychologists.  He has served as president of the latter group twice, 1980-81 and 1987-88.  He also is currently historian of the American Psychological Association, Division of School Psychology.

In Illinois, Dr. Fagan was chairman of the School Psychology Section of the state psychological association, and in Tennessee he has served twice as president of the state association of school psychologists, 1983-84 and 1991-92.  In that same organization, he currently serves as historian.

On the U of M campus, Dr. Fagan has served in a number of offices with the Faculty Senate, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Psychology Department.  In the department, he has chaired or co-chaired 10 committees and has served on almost that many.

Dr. Fagan is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Award for Exceptional Service to the Profession of School Psychology from the National Association of School Psychologists.  Other professional organizations that have recognized him are the Illinois School Psychologists Association, the Tennessee Association of School Psychologists, and the American Psychological Association.  He has been named a Fellow in Division 16  (School Psychology) and Division 26 (History of Psychology) of the APA.

He received the Dorothy H. Hughes Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Educational or School Psychology from the School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions of New York University.

The four Distinguished Research Award winners will each receive a $2000 gift.  Cary Holladay will be honored for Distinguished Achievement in the Creative Arts, Lorelei H. Corcoran for Distinguished Research in the Humanities, Dr. Charles D. Blaha for Distinguished Research in the Social Sciences, Business and Law, and Dr. Abby L. Parrill for Distinguished Research in Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

 Holladay, an associate professor in the Department of English, joined the faculty at the University of Memphis in 2002. She has published two novels, A Fight in the Doctor’s Office and Mercury, and the short story collections The Quick-Change Artist, The Palace of Wasted Footsteps and The People Down South. Her stories have appeared in such publications as New Stories from the South, Epoch and The Georgia Review. Holladay has received numerous honors, including the Goodheart Prize, the Paul Bowles Prize for Fiction, a Tennessee Arts Commission Fellowship, and an O. Henry Prize. She also directs the River City Writers Series. One reviewer has written of Holladay, “She is supremely gifted as a writer. Her stories are quirky, individual, idiosyncratic, alluring and vivid. They are unique … The effect is that her stories wedge themselves into my consciousness long after I have read them.” Another reviewer characterizes her work as, “Southern without any clichés.” 

Corcoran is a professor of art history and director of the Institute for Egyptian Art and Archaeology. She has an extensive list of conference and symposia papers, invited lectures, and contributions to collected essays, refereed journals, books, and encyclopedias dedicated to the field of Egyptology. Corcoran’s recent book, Herakleides: A Red-Shroud Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt, co-authored with the Getty conservator Maria Svoboda and published in fall 2010 by the J. Paul Getty Museum, is a significant addition to Egyptian history and highlights the funerary practices and religious beliefs of this historical period.  Her 1995 book Portrait Mummies from Roman Egypt (I-IV centuries A.D.), published by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has become a fundamental reference for Egyptian scholars. Corcoran has spoken at numerous venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The British Museum in London, and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands. 

 Blaha, a professor in the Department of Psychology since 2004, has served as director of the Division of Experimental Psychology since 2006. With more than 100 publications and $4.5 million in funded grants since arriving at the U of M, Blaha has been called a “pioneer.” His research has focused on the neural basis of autism and deep brain stimulation for treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Collaborating with scientists from around the world, Blaha has made tremendous advances in both basic and applied psychophysiological research. 

 Parrill, a professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, joined the University of Memphis faculty in 1998. Her research accomplishments are demonstrated through the range of her publications, the extent to which her work is cited, the amount of external funding she has received, her work’s significance to advances in cancer research and treatment, her visibility and respect in the field of chemistry, and her impact on graduate education at the U of M. As a cancer researcher, she has focused on understanding the structural characteristics of phospholipid growth factor receptors and their interactions with both endogenous (made in the body) and synthetic (from the environment) chemical compounds.

 The four Distinguished Teaching Award winners will each receive a $2,000 award for their outstanding teaching at the undergraduate and graduate and levels.

 Emin Babakus, a professor in the Department of Marketing & Supply Chain Management, joined that department in 1985. He teaches primarily marketing research at the undergraduate and graduate levels. His research appears in leading journals, including Journal of Marketing Research, Decision Sciences, and Journal of Retailing. He is a recipient of a First Tennessee Professorship, Palmer Research Professorship, and numerous awards in recognition of his scholarship.

 Cathy Dice, instructor of English, received her B.A. in English and history from the University of Memphis in 1989 and a master’s in English in 1991; she has taught at the university for more than 15 years. She teaches a wide variety of undergraduate courses, including freshman composition, literary heritage, African-American literature, and children’s literature. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she serves as the director of the WordSmith Writing Olympics, the department’s annual writing contest for local middle and high school students, and as the coordinator of the English Internship Program.

 Antonio de Velasco, assistant professor in the Department of Communication, is inspired by the classical ideals of liberal education and strives to equip students for an active life in the public arena by training them in the art of rhetoric. Since his arrival on campus in 2005, he has earned praise for his passionate pursuit of this civic mission. One of his student said, “His ability to engage the class as a whole is unique and creates an environment where everyone leaves learning something every class. I will apply his teaching in my interactions for the rest of my life.”

 Margaret Vandiver, professor of criminology and criminal justice, has been with that department since 1992. She teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs, and her primary research interests are capital punishment, homicide and collective violence.  She has published numerous articles and two recent books, Lethal Punishment: Lynchings and Legal Executions in the South (sole author) and Tennessee’s New Abolitionists (co-editor). Her current research is focused on historical homicides in Memphis. 

 In the ninth year of recognizing outstanding student advisors, the two Distinguished Advising honorees will each receive a $2,000 award. 

 Anna Bess Sorin, an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences, joined the University in 2003. She is coordinator of the Biology Advising and Resource Center, established in 2008 to manage the large and diverse population of students interested the biological sciences major. Since the creation of the Center, and under the direction of Sorin, the department has seen an increase in students completing their bachelor of science degree. Her philosophy of advising guides by encompassing “two main components: providing guidance with specific degree requirements, and assisting student with understanding and realizing their individual strengths and career goals.” A student commented, “She is very straightforward and puts the student on the path to success.”  Last year Sorin was a recipient of the Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award.

 Marion Chiles Powless, academic advising coordinator for the Department of Psychology, joined that department in 2002 as director of the Academic Advising and Resource Center. In addition to supervising the peer advisors and attendance at campus recruitment events, she oversees the Center’s academic advising and referral functions, and provides opportunities to enhance student engagement for more than 900 undergraduate psychology majors. One of her graduates commented, “Marion Powless is a life changer. She listened and provided me with information. I felt so empowered.  I left the office energized about my future. Marion helped me to discover what I have always wanted to do with my life.”

 The Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes teaching excellence at the undergraduate level and overall commitment to undergraduate education.  Established in 1996, the Briggs Award is named for the founder of Welcome Wagon International. Nominees are judged on the basis of teaching skills, classroom performance, their role in the overall development of undergraduates, and the results of student rating surveys.

This year’s recipients, John Haddock, a professor of mathematical sciences , and Charlene Spiceland, an instructor in accountancy, will each receive a $7,500 award.

 Haddock earned his doctorate from Southern Illinois University.  He joined the U of M 1970. Most recently he has taught calculus I and II and foundations of mathematics. In an effort to improve math test scores, Haddock has his students do most of their classroom work on the computer. “I work closely with engineering students, and math has traditionally caused the most trouble for them,” said Kathy Atkinson, advisor in the Herff College of Engineering. “Dr. Haddock quickly establishes a rapport with students, who know he is available to help them outside of class. While he is not the only teacher who works with students outside of class, his clear instruction and concern for his students have made him in high demand.”

Said one Foundations student, “Professor Haddock made me want to come to class. He was witty and fun and made math less of a nightmare for me. I can honestly say I looked forward to tests.” Others praised him as patient and kind. “He’s very quick with feedback on how to figure out a problem,” said a student in calculus I. “He doesn’t just give you an answer, but tells you how to get to that point. His limitless patience, tremendous mathematical knowledge, and genuine interest in seeing his students do well all contribute to a learning experience that can only be described as superlative.”

 Spiceland, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and master’s degrees from the U of M, began teaching at the U of M in 2008 after serving as CFO of EFS Transportation. “Charlene has a natural gift for teaching, based on her innate compassion for her students, her willingness to meet students’ needs, and her focus on excellence in classroom delivery,” said Dr. Carolyn Callahan, chair of accountancy. “With master’s degrees in education and accounting, coupled with being a former CFO of a major firm, she has the skill set to deliver demanding intellectual content in a way that students love.”

Students rave about her creativity and teaching innovations that make the learning process easier. “Accounting is an analytical discipline that can prove daunting,” said Callahan. “However, I have walked by Charlene’s classrooms many times and the students are having fun learning very difficult material in their accounting and information systems courses.”

Students feel supported and encouraged. Said one, “Professor Spiceland is a fantastic instructor. She’s innovative, enthusiastic, and does everything to ensure that the whole class understands the material.”

In addition to her teaching schedule, this semester Spiceland created a teaching seminar for accounting doctoral students to help them develop strong teaching and classroom management skills.

 The Allen J. Hammond Presidential Service Award, presented to Bruce Harber, director of Police Services at the U of M, is one of the University’s most prestigious service awards. It is not given every year, but is reserved for special recognition of people who have rendered significant service to the University. Once called the Presidential Award for Exceptional Service, the name of the award was changed to honor Allen J. Hammond, the University's late director of student financial aid.


U of M President Shirley Raines said she selected Harber for the award in recognition of the leadership he has provided in making the University of Memphis the safest campus of more than 5,000 students in the state of Tennessee. “Chief Harber and his officers help maintain a safe and welcoming environment for students and for our campus guests,” Raines said. “Bruce also works toward achieving our strategic goal of becoming one of America's great metropolitan research universities.”

Harber (BPS ’91) began working for the University in 2000 as associate director of Public Safety and was appointed director in 2002. Before joining the U of M, he served with the Memphis Police Department in various assignments for more than 25 years. Harber attended graduate school at the U of M and the University of Virginia. A graduate of the FBI National Academy, he has been a state-certified police officer since 1976. Harber is a former president of the Memphis Metropolitan Association of Chiefs of Police and a member of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP). He has served on TACP’s University Committee, which includes all public and private campus police agencies in the state.

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