By Heather Farr
Tom Vander Ven and Deborah Thorne, both associate professors in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, have been selected to be the first recipients of the Eric A. Wagner Professorship.
According to Ann Tickamyer, chair of the sociology and anthropology department, the award is meant to recognize faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate teaching of sociology and to act as an incentive to maintain and enhance high quality instruction in the field.
“Dr. Wagner set a very high bar in his own teaching and scholarly accomplishments,” Tickamyer said. “The department is honored to have this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to teaching excellence and reward those who have followed in his footsteps.”
Wagner, an emeritus professor of sociology, along with friends and former students, endowed the professorship. The endowment is currently worth about $275,000.
Intended to serve as an incentive to encourage and maintain superior undergraduate teaching of sociology, the professorship is a salary supplement. Up to 20 percent of the annual award may be used for professional travel or teaching- and research-related expenses.
“All teaching awards are meaningful and critical to the institution of education. However, the Wagner is unique,” said Thorne. “Dr. Eric Wagner is likely one of the most skilled teachers this department has ever seen, and when an instructor of his caliber provides the energy and resources to make something like this professorship happen, it sends a strong message that good teaching matters and is appreciated.”
Vander Ven was likewise honored to receive the Wagner professorship.
“Eric Wagner was an outstanding instructor and helped to build our department's reputation for excellence in the classroom,” he said. “I am honored to be associated with his name and to be recognized (along with Thorne) in a department full of equally worthy candidates. We take teaching very seriously in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and this professorship announces this commitment to undergraduate education to the university community.”
Selection is made by a three-person committee of sociologists, including the department chair. Determination of undergraduate teaching excellence is based on criteria deemed appropriate by the selection committee, which can include student teaching evaluations, teaching awards and peer assessments, among other things.
“We are grateful to Dr. Wagner and others who have made generous gifts to endow the Eric A. Wagner Professorship at Ohio University,” said Howard R. Lipman, vice president for University Advancement and president & CEO of the Ohio University Foundation.
“They understand the important role endowed professorships play to enhance the university’s ability to recruit and retain the best faculty, provide high-quality instruction, attract top students and to bolster our national prominence.”
Ben Ogles, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said Ohio University has many professors who help students understand course content and also encourage them to become better citizens.
“Dr. Wagner was this type of person and the two individuals selected as the first recipients of the Wagner professorship are similar in their dedication to our students.”
The Ohio University Foundation is an institutionally related, non-profit, tax-exempt, 501c(3) organization and the repository for all private gifts, including annual giving programs, capital and special campaign, and planned or deferred gifts.