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Awards banquet honors exemplary faculty and staff

Four faculty members were honored May 11, 2011, for superior scholarship, teaching, mentoring and service at Elon University’s faculty-staff awards luncheon. Those recognized included Mary Jo Festle, Ann J. Cahill, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler and Stephen Bailey.

From left: Ann J. Cahill, Mary Jo Festle, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler and Stephen Bailey

The award announcements, made in front of hundreds of colleagues who filled Alumni Gym for the annual ceremony, also included recognition to longtime employees of the university and to pending retirees.

Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching
Mary Jo Festle
Professor of History

Festle is the 39th Elon faculty member to receive the award, established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Knox College, where she studied social change as an interdisciplinary independent major, Festle earned master’s and doctoral degrees in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include oral history methodology, medical history and the history of disability.

Her students describe her as a charismatic professor who shows enthusiasm for the subjects she teaches, provides useful feedback, pushes them to think critically and, above all, is interested in their personal and professional success.

“Dr. Festle is not only a great teacher in the classroom, but also a supportive mentor for her students as they face obstacles outside of class,” a former student says. “I hit some bumps in the road this past fall and Dr. Festle was a source of stability for me.”

Students also praise her ability to make history understandable, fun and enjoyable, so much so that even at eight o’clock in the morning students feel motivated to learn and look forward to class.

“Her classes were always very interactive and very interesting, to the point where a student couldn't just sit down and listen to the conversation,” a former student says. During her classes, “the conversations and learning process are so interesting that students need to get involved and put in their own opinions.”

Her colleagues also praise her commitment to the intellectual and personal growth of her students and her meticulous planning and preparation for each class.

Festle received the 2004 Elon College Excellence in Teaching Award and the university’s first Senior Faculty Research Fellowship (2008-10). Since joining Elon’s faculty in 1993, she has had a book on women in athletics and several articles published. She is currently completing a book-length manuscript on the history of lung transplants, a topic a colleague says is personal for Festle, who has lost loved ones to cystic fibrosis.

Festle’s leadership goes beyond the classroom. In the past, she has directed the Honors Program, chaired the search committee for the dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, and served as coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She currently chairs the pedagogy and curriculum subcommittee of the Presidential Diversity Council and was recently named associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

Distinguished Scholar Award
Ann J. Cahill
Professor of Philosophy

Cahill, a prolific scholar who has influenced the field of feminist philosophy and an accomplished professor who has guided hundreds of Elon students for more than a decade, has been named the 12th recipient of an award that recognizes a faculty member whose research has earned peer commendation and respect, and who has made significant contributions to his or her field of study.

“Dr. Cahill is among the most celebrated contemporary thinkers in the area of postmodern feminist philosophy,” says a colleague in the Department of Philosophy. “There is no higher purpose in philosophy than fighting for the empowerment of historically repressed groups and Dr. Cahill is one of its most courageous practitioners.”

Since joining Elon’s faculty in 1998, she has written book chapters and numerous articles that have appeared in premier journals in the field of feminist philosophy, as well as two books on topics central to feminist thinking that had not been extensively explored. She has also co-edited two anthologies, presented at dozens of national and international conferences and received several fellowships and research grants, including five summer fellowships awarded by the Faculty Research and Development Committee at Elon.

Cahill’s work, which one colleague describes as “clear, thought provoking, original and compelling,” has become central to postmodern feminist philosophy and is frequently cited in that field’s literature and used as an instructional tool on college campuses across the country.

Her first book, Rethinking Rape (2001), drew from her dissertation at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she earned her doctorate in 1998. Her most recent book, Overcoming Objectification: A Carnal Ethics, published in December 2010, is a critique of the feminist notion of objectification.

“The book is extremely well argued, researched and documented, and it promises to be an important addition to contemporary discourse in feminist philosophy in particular, and the nature of the person, in general,”  a colleague says.

Her contributions to Elon include chairing the Department of Philosophy since 2008 and the Sexual Assault and Gender Issues Council since 2006. She was named a Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning Scholar for 2010-2012 for her project, “Argumentation Step-by-Step,” which further develops an innovative, learning-centered approach to teaching argumentation and transforms it into a web-based curriculum that can be shared with instructors at other institutions.

She was also honored this year with the Elon College Excellence in Scholarship Award.

Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award
Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler
Professor of Psychology

Vandermaas-Peeler has been named the fourth recipient of an award to honor a faculty or staff member who demonstrates a commitment to Elon undergraduates through outstanding mentoring.

The award was established by Tom and Beth Ward P ’05, ’08, ‘14, their sons, A.T. ’05, Christopher ’08 and Chase ‘14, and Tom Ward’s mother, Dorothy Mears Ward GP ’05, ’08, ’14.

“Since arriving at Elon, Maureen’s professional identity has been associated with undergraduate research,” say colleagues from different departments across campus. “She has so clearly been a major campus leader in the mentoring of undergraduate research, she is perhaps the most outstanding model of a research mentor that we have.”

Vandermaas-Peeler received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wake Forest University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in developmental psychology from North Carolina State University. In her 16 years at Elon, she has published more than a dozen research articles in academic journals with undergraduate students, made many conference presentations with students as co-authors and sponsored students presenting research at more than 100 local, regional and national conferences and meetings. She has taught several Honors courses and since 2008 has served as director of the Honors Program, a position that allows her to support and encourage some of the brightest students at Elon. She also is a consulting editor for the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

In her research lab, Vandermaas-Peeler consistently includes students in her research, particularly in the area of early childhood development, her main area of interest, though she doesn’t hesitate to get out of her comfort zone to support students in their own endeavors.

As a mentor, she always is accessible to her students to offer academic and personal support whenever needed, even after graduation. She has been instrumental in helping many students successfully continue their academic careers and achieve their professional goals.

“Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler was an active and integral part of my Elon experience and she continues to be an integral part of my graduate school experience as well,” says a 2009 alumna who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Auburn University. “We have worked together on two publications and plan to begin a third one this summer… Beyond supporting my professional development, she continues to provide advice regarding the graduate school experience.

“If she could have continued into graduate school as my mentor, I would have her with me at Auburn today.”

Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility
Stephen Bailey
Professor of Physical Therapy Education

A tireless volunteer and advocate for people with disabilities in the community, Bailey is the ninth recipient of an award that honors a member of Elon's faculty or staff whose community service exemplifies the ideals of Project Pericles.

“As his colleague in the department of physical therapy education, I’ve witnessed his strong commitment to engaging with the community and developing each student’s sense of social responsibility in the everyday conversations he has with faculty and students,” a fellow professor says. “I believe he provides a valuable example of engagement in the community and he effectively models and promotes social responsibility in those with whom he interacts.”

For the past three years, Bailey has volunteered to coach the Elon club lacrosse team. He also volunteered to coach the county’s first high school team at Western High School for three years and was instrumental in getting a recreation league started for elementary and middle school students. He currently volunteers as the coach of the Williams High School lacrosse team.

At Elon, Bailey’s leadership for club lacrosse has solidified the team’s reputation in its conference and resulted in additional community service from players.

His engagement in the community goes beyond sports. Thanks to a five-year Kate B. Reynolds S.E.L.F. Improvement Program grant he obtained in 2001, he was able to bring together faculty and students from a variety of departments and groups on campus with external organizations like Alamance Regional Medical Center and Alamance Community College to work on the prevention of chronic illness in the Hispanic community.

Earlier this year, he organized “Face Off for Autism,” a fundraiser for the N.C. Autism Society that raised awareness about the disorder and more than $4,000 for the organization. Bailey participates regularly in Special Olympics events as a certified aquatics coach and even got members of the Elon club swim team involved as well.

He is also very active with Peacehaven Community Farm, a nonprofit, volunteer-based sustainable farm in nearby Whitsett, N.C., that will provide housing for adults with disabilities.”

Also honored for their years of service to Elon are the following staff and faculty who have retired this academic year or will do so at the end of the semester:  

Andy Angyal - Professor of English and environmental studies
Herb House - Professor of Biology
Buck McGregor - Associate Professor of Accounting
Judith Howard - Professor of Education
Kitty Parrish - Director of Health Services
Ernie Lunsford - Professor of Spanish
Kay Riddle - student account specialists in the Office of the Bursar
Anne Wright - University Advancement


Eric Townsend,
5/17/2011 10:14 AM