Stephen Folger: a fair, compassionate and engaging educator

The winner of this year’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, Stephen Folger, professor of physical therapy education, is described by students and colleagues as a constant voice of reason, fairness, compassion and caring.


Stephen Folger doesn’t just teach neuroscience. He wants his students earning their doctorate in physical therapy to understand the complex course and be capable of applying it in clinical practice.

Folger, a professor of physical therapy education, is adept at reaching students with different learning styles. He rephrases important points, uses various teaching tools and makes time for those struggling to grasp troublesome concepts.

A student studying with a group one late night in the Gerald F. Francis Center for one of Folger’s neuroscience tests recalls him poking his head in the door to ask if they needed any help.

Their professor then quizzed and reviewed with the group until he was certain they understood the material.

“Dr. Folger’s willingness to help and his ability to calm even the highest of nerves makes him an invaluable teacher,” a student says. “Students often come to him distraught over the difficulty of the courses he teaches and without a moment of pity or frustration, he listens to students with open ears. He provides honest feedback and suggestions in a calm manner, while assuring students of his confidence in their abilities.”

Folger joined Elon’s charter faculty for the Master of Physical Therapy program in August 1998. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Ithaca College in 1988. Soon after, he began his clinical career at Duke University, enrolling in the doctoral program in biomedical engineering in 1991 and completing his degree in 1998. 

During his 15 years at Elon, Folger has taken a leadership role in his department and at the university. Embracing cutting-edge technology, Folger developed the Curriculum Enhancement Database (CED), a tool used to ensure the DPT curriculum continues to meet the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education’s requirements. Along with Bill Andrews, an associate professor in Elon’s Department of Physical Therapy Education, Folger developed neurologic web-based case studies. Both advancements are used to improve physical therapy education programs nationwide.

“Dr. Folger has a way of teaching that engages students,” says a former student. “He provides them all of the information that is necessary for learning while at the same time presenting that information in the style that works for them. These subjects can be frustrating to learn, and it is often halfway through the four-month module before students truly grasp the concepts. Dr. Folger is always calm, reassuring and helpful to students during this process.”

Folger supports graduating students whether they immediately begin careers in physical therapy or go on to pursue a doctorate. He answers questions. He writes recommendation letters. He provides career advice and offers support.

“Now that I am teaching the same content as he does in my current job, I frequently refer to his notes and lectures, not so much to review content but to organize my class as well as his,” a former student says. “Even to this day, I strive to do my job as well as he does his. He has been, and continues to be, a strong influence in my professional life, and I am very pleased to have studied with him.”

Colleagues notice Folger’s ability to embrace cutting-edge technology to enhance student learning as well as the ease at which he sets aside his many responsibilities in the department so students know their questions are important to him.

He is a “gentleman with no hidden agendas,” a colleague says. “Student success is his first priority as well as his last priority.”

Folger is the 41st Elon faculty member to receive the award established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his late wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents. He will assume the role of chair and program director of the Department of Physical Therapy Education on June 1.

Coming up next week: a profile on Tom Mould, winner of this year’s Distinguished Scholar Award.