Gathering emphasizes student accomplishments, faculty contributions
June 1, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle and Mary Alice Casey
Photo by Michael DiBari Jr.
Bruce Strong beamed across the table as Matt Eich stood to be recognized. Later, he explained.
"Matt is a very special person. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to have been part of his development as a person and as a photographer."
Strong is a faculty member in Ohio University's School of Visual Communication. Eich, among whose many accomplishments is earning the title of 2006 College Photographer of the Year, is a junior VisCom major who first encountered Strong as a freshman.
The pair were among more than 220 students and faculty who packed Baker University Center Ballroom on Thursday for the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards' annual appreciation luncheon. The event recognized students' efforts in seeking prestigious awards and faculty members' willingness to guide them.
"Bruce is a professor who really opens up his heart and his home to his students," Eich said after the luncheon. "His personal life and the example he sets have helped me find balance. I'm about to have a kid, and he has two."
Asked to articulate the pride he feels in Eich's accomplishments, Strong had to pause to let the emotion subside. "He shoots from the heart, and those images effect change in other people's lives. He's got a fresh way of speaking photographically ... and the world's already recognized his voice.
"To me, being a good professor is not just talking only about academics, but about how (students) have the ability to change the world in the way they live and in how they view the world through their photographs," he continued. "Matt's on the way to changing people's lives."
And Thursday, as students stood and professors beamed, the value of relationships such as the one Strong and Eich share was confirmed over and over.
"I have the deepest admiration and respect for each of you," ONCA Director Ann Brown told the student applicants. Addressing faculty, she added, "Everyone in this room has done something remarkable for someone else. People are a community here, and they work with students to move everyone forward."
So far this academic year, ONCA has tracked students' receipt of 42 nationally competitive awards and 11 Teach for America Corps selections. The honors -- which have included three Goldwaters, eight Fulbrights and other equally sought-after distinctions -- will take recipients to Taiwan, France, Germany, Estonia, Japan, Yemen, Indonesia and elsewhere to volunteer, take classes, research and teach.
But as Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl put it, the real winners are those who participate in the process of applying for these awards. Next to each student's name in the program were those of one, two, even five or six faculty members who have put in untold hours teaching, mentoring, writing recommendations and reading and re-reading drafts of essays. "All of these lay a foundation for students' and faculty members' lifetime," Krendl said.
Brown singled out five faculty members and one department for their extensive commitment to helping students compete for awards. Benita Blessing, Karen Eichstadt, Annette Steigerwald, Soichi Tanda and Christopher Thompson received the Distinguished Service Award, and the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department received the Outstanding Department Award.
Of the department winner, which had 10 students compete for awards this year, Brown acknowledged, "I cannot tell you how many hours of faculty time I know that took. This department has just been unbelievable."