Elon recognizes faculty for excellence with annual awards

These four awards recognize members of the Elon community for excellence in teaching, scholarship, civic engagement and mentoring.

With its annual awards program, Elon University has recognized the excellence of members of the faculty and staff in their service to the university and the community.

Recognized this year were Senior Scholar and Professor of Law Steve Friedland, Professor of Religious Studies Lynn Huber, Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Elon Academy Terry Tomasek, and Colin Donohue, director of the School of Communications student engagement and alumni affairs and instructor in journalism.

Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching

Steve Friedland, Senior Scholar and Professor of Law

A founding member of the Elon School of Law faculty, Steven Friedland has been repeatedly recognized at Elon, in the legal academy and across the country for his devotion to his students, to his teaching, to his scholarship, to his profession and to Elon. As a teacher, he has been committed to superior achievement and continual improvement.

“Steve’s success as a teacher stems from his profound belief that his role is that of a mentor and friend who believes that his talents are best used as a guide for students to take ownership of their education,” a colleague noted when nominating Friedland for the award. “In this, he has been truly successful to the benefit of a generation of law students.”

During his teaching career at Elon Law, Friedland has demonstrated versatility in his ability to teach many complex subjects in the curriculum, along with a willingness to cover gaps in faculty coverage of important subject areas. His students have repeatedly commended him for his dedication to their development, to legal education and to the practice of law.

“He is a mentor, a leader, an advocate and a role model,” one former student said in supporting his nomination. “His personal investment in my professional development has further demonstrated his dedication to developing competent lawyers.”

Friedland has been a member of the faculty since Elon Law’s founding in 2006, having come to the school from Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. At Elon, he was a member of the law school committee that redesigned the curriculum, which has since been recognized as one of the most innovative and effective American law school programs. He helped design the new introductory course at the law school for entering students and continues to lead workshops and other projects to assess and improve the curriculum.

“His devotion to his craft as a teacher, mentor, scholar and colleague is recognized across the country and around the world,” one colleague noted in supporting the nomination. “His commitment to his students is deep and broad. His desire for his students and colleagues to achieve excellence and succeed is unbounded.”

His work in the classroom has led to him being recognized as teacher of the year by the Elon Law School Student Bar Association for three out of the four years the award has been offered. He was one of only 26 professors profiled in the book, “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” which recognized his engagement with his students.

One former student notes that in Friedland’s courses, “the classroom became a learning lab, where ‘experiential learning’ was defined during the early days of Elon Law.” That included visits from the Greensboro Crime Scene Investigation team, visits to the Guilford County detention center and other activities that put students in direct contact with the criminal justice system.

“Professor Friedland embodies the spirit of an Elon education and of excellence in teaching,” the student noted in supporting the nomination. “Always available to students who need extra help or have questions, Professor Friedland works with the class at the students’ pace of learning and refuses to leave students behind. As a current professor, I implement feedback strategies I observed as a student of Professor Friedland.”

As a scholar, Friedland has focused much of his scholarship on the teaching of law with publications on legal education spanning a significant part of his teaching career. He helped bring the second national symposium of the Alliance on Experiential Learning in Law to Elon Law in 2014 and he co-chairs the law school’s standing committee on faculty development and engaged learning.

“I have seen Steve’s direct impact on students, but I have also seen the incredible impact he has had on legal education through his mentorship of new law teachers,” said a peer from a different institution. “Steve’s willingness to share his knowledge with new law professors demonstrates his commitment to legal education and students not only at Elon, but across the country. His mentorship of others has had a strong impact around the country.”

Friedland is the 48th 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.

Distinguished Scholar Award

Lynn Huber, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Honors Program

With an impressive portfolio of books, articles, book reviews and other work, Professor of Religious Studies Lynn Huber stands as a pre-eminent scholar in the area of religious studies. Her work is highly influential among her peers, and she continues to break new ground in her field of study, which is the New Testament and more specifically, the Book of Revelation.

Huber describes her research as addressing Revelation “as a product of Roman and Jewish discourses intersecting across the first-century Mediterranean world, the time of the Roman Empire.” She examines “how Revelation, a first-century writing eventually included in the Christian scriptures, participates in the construction of Roman and early Christian gender ideals, as well as the ways that Revelation’s gendered metaphors are deployed by later interpreters, especially female and LGBTQ interpreters.”

In her research, Huber has focused not just upon historical interpretation, but with “an eye toward the present and future as it contributes to our understanding of how biblical texts are shaped by specific historical situations and discourses, providing a way for contemporary interpreters to make meaning with the text.”

Huber started at Elon in 2004 as a visiting professor of religious studies, and in her time at the university, has served as program director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, founding director of the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society and chair of the Department of Religious Studies. Since 2018, Huber has served as director of the Honors Program.

She is the author of two books, 2007’s “’Like a Bride Adorned’: Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse,” and 2013’s “Thinking and Seeing with Women in Revelation,” with a new book, “Revelation” in the Wisdom Commentary Series, now in the works with Gail R. O’Day. She has edited and co-edited multiple special issues and is the author of numerous articles, essays and book chapters.

“Professor Huber’s scholarship stands apart for its interdisciplinary excellence,” wrote a peer from another institution in support of Huber’s nomination. “Its core involves the interpretation of New Testament texts by attending to visual and material culture, and it has expanded to include attention to the Bible’s material appropriation in medieval and modern contexts and to gender and queer hermeneutics.

“Multi-textured and multi-contextual, her research lies on our discipline’s leading edge,” the peer wrote.

Another peer described Huber’s research as “consistently clear, sharp, and boundary-pushing; at the same time, it’s incredibly timely and relevant beyond the biblical studies guild.”

Huber is often praised for her commitment to being a mentor in her field to her peers and her students alike. She has been involved in building and sustaining intellectual communities, and is committed to engaging in best practices in the classroom while sharing that work with her peers beyond Elon.

“My friendship with Professor Huber has allowed me to witness how her scholarship benefits Elon through her work as an instructor and mentor,” one peer writes. “Lynn frequently celebrates the accomplishments of Elon undergraduates, especially in the Honors program, which she directs.”

Huber has a growing international reputation that one colleague said is due to her ability to bring new energy and insight into the field, particularly into new readings of the Book of Revelation.

“No doubt her generosity as a scholar and her strength in collaborative work are part of why she continues to receive invitations to contribute to important scholarly projects and to work on interesting and innovative new collaborative ventures,” an Elon colleague wrote. “Dr. Huber has built a strong scholarly identity and her future plans promise to build her work in new directions.”

Huber is the 21st recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award, which 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.

Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility

Terry Tomasek, associate professor of education and director of the Elon Academy

As an associate professor of education and director of the Elon Academy, Terry Tomasek has demonstrated her devotion to her students and the community at large through her tireless work both near and far.

A member of the Elon faculty since 2006, Tomasek was the inaugural faculty-in-residence for the Elon School of Education Center at the University of Otago in New Zealand and also serves as the faculty in residence for the Colonnades Residential Neighborhood.

“Dr. Tomasek’s legacy is one of tireless and selfless devotion to servant leadership,” her nominator said in support of her receiving the Periclean Award. “She has inspired and mentored countless undergraduate students and yet her influence goes far beyond the ‘Elon Bubble’ to positively impact the local and global community.

As a teacher, she has practiced engaging and selfless mentoring. One former student recounts how Tomasek gave him “the comfort and confidence to pursue the career I had always wanted” while providing a model for how to be an effective teacher in the classroom. “Throughout my student teaching journey, she challenged me to go above and beyond my own expectations because she saw my capabilities and gave me every opportunity to reach them,” the former student wrote in support of the nomination. “I am indebted to Dr. Tomasek’s caring and nurturing approach as an advisor for leading me and so many others toward our calling as educators.”

Tomasek moved from teaching in Elon Academy, the university’s flagship college access and success program for Alamance County students, to being named its second director, a role her peers say she has filled with determination and grace. “Her leadership has strengthened the program in many ways, visible and invisible, deepened partnerships within Elon and the local community, and inspired hundreds of young people to pursue their college dreams,” according to her nomination.

She has led “Science in the Village” for Elon’s “It Takes a Village” Project and is engaged at local schools weekly as she supports student teachers as they learn how to teach science.

Tomasek helped establish the longstanding “Warm Heart of Malawi” course that brings together Elon University students and primary school students attending Namasimba School in Blantyre, Malawi. Through this partnership, hundreds of school children have increased their English language learning and have been provided access to essential learning materials such as books and learning games.

“She has served as a model of global engagement and appropriate approaches to service for both students and colleagues,” her nominator wrote.

Tomasek is the 18th recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, which is given each year to a member of Elon’s faculty or staff whose community service exemplifies the ideals of Project Pericles.

Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award

Colin Donohue, Director of School of Communications Student Engagement and Alumni Affairs and Instructor in Journalism

With a “laser focus” on student growth and development, Colin Donohue has been described as “the epitome of a mentor,” with his students and peers frequently calling him an inspiration in their lives and careers.

Director of School of Communications Student Engagement and Alumni Affairs, and instructor in journalism, Donohue is a steadfast believer in co-curricular education who has long sought to enhance the student experience for all involved in Elon’s wide variety of student media organizations. His nominator notes that Donohue has developed training programs, partnered with other universities for pre-professional workshops and heightened a sense of camaraderie among disparate organizations.

“Mentorship is not simply a box he checks or a to-do list item,” his nominator wrote. “Mentorship runs through his veins and drives him to work harder each day.”

One alumna noted that Donohue recognizes his students’ strengths and works to support them as they develop them further. She pointed to his work with her at a Journalism Education Association conference where she was invited to lead a workshop about Elon’s School of Communications programs. “Colin supported me and elevated my experience by allowing me to be a primary voice at our booth,” the alumna wrote in support of his nomination. “He empowered me by affirming that my expertise as a student was worthy and valuable. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I was glad to have a mentor like him support me in that unique opportunity.”

Donohue is known for the long-lasting relationships he develops with students during their time at the university. “He’s my first call when mulling a career decision, and the first person I text when I’m coming back to visit campus,” one alumnus wrote in support of the nomination. “I’ve learned from him the importance of being fair and impartial in your judgment, of being forward-thinking in your leadership and support, and of not being afraid to try out a new idea or rethink the way we do something.”

Beyond his leadership in the classroom and with student media organizations, Donohue has been active in residence life on campus, serving first as faculty in residence in the Danieley Neighborhood before becoming faculty in residence in the Oaks Neighborhood. In those roles, he’s focused on new, engaging programming that provides students opportunities to connect with each other, the campus and the surrounding community.

“Having attended several of these events, I have been most impressed with the sense of community that Colin has helped develop,” his nominator wrote. “He solicits inputs from a wide array of students and then enables casual but meaningful conversations at the events themselves.”

Donohue is the first person to be honored with the Steven and Patricia House Excellence in Mentoring Award. The award is supported by a gift from Executive Vice President Steven House and his wife, Patricia, to celebrate excellence in student mentoring, one of the markers of quality that has fueled Elon’s reputation as the national leader in engaged, experiential learning.