Virtual Academic Convocation honors faculty scholars

Professors Peter Vantine, Michael Bosia and Steve Doyon are winners of three major faculty awards

September 28, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

smc shieldBecause of the pandemic, this year’s annual Academic Convocation on Friday, Sept. 25, was a “virtual” event via Zoom rather than in the McCarthy Arts Center as most years. During this variation on a September tradition established in 1986 to honor Saint Michael’s College scholars and scholarship, more than 100 faculty, staff, students and College leaders came together online to:

  • Present three major annual faculty awards: for service; for scholarship & artistic achievement; and for teaching.
  • Hear a keynote message from last year’s scholarship award winner, Adrie Kusserow of the anthropology/sociology faculty, titled “ScholARTship and the Anthropology of Empathy,” in which she argued that “scholarship needs art and art needs scholarship” in order to best “jointly address needs of humans in crisis.”
  • Hear Trustees Chair Patricia Casey speak of the trustees’ keen awareness and appreciation of faculty work. “I want to convey the admiration of the Board for your extraordinary efforts in addressing the community’s need to educate differently these past few months,” said Casey, a longtime higher education administrator and consultant who spoke by Zoom from greater Boston where she lives and works.
  • Formally recognize many distinguished retiring longtime faculty, while welcoming new faces and acknowledging those granted tenure or promoted to full professor.

The main event of this virtual Academic Convocation, as with previous in-person gatherings, was the online announcement of the three always highly anticipated major faculty awards, which Master of Ceremonies, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Trumbower, said were chosen by the Faculty Council based on nominations from across the College. Listed below with the name of award presenter in parentheses followed by and some words or key points from each citation, the 2020 winners are:

Norbert A. Kuntz Service Award winner:

Vantine

Peter Vantine

Peter Vantine, director, First-Year Seminar Program; chair and associate professor of classical and modern languages and literature: French (presenter Katherine Kirby, last year’s winner of this award): “[His} primary motivation, since his arrival at Saint Michael’s College, has been to bring success to the institution, its faculty, staff and students, to promote the ethos of Saint Michael’s College through the teaching and practice of modern languages and to help others achieve their greatest potential.” The presenter noted Vantine’s many service contributions and work with colleagues and administrators, as well as his and work leading study abroad experiences and connecting to  wider regional and international communities, “A true citizen of the College, he attends as many campus events as his already overburdened schedule will allow,” Kirby said.

Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award Winner:

Michael Bosia

Michael Bosia, political science (presenter Jeffrey Ayres, former dean and departmental colleague). “Michael Bosia has developed a reputation as one of the preeminent scholars globally of LGBT politics and sexual diversity, while working to create new spaces for collaborative scholarship for peers and emerging scholars from historically marginalized backgrounds including gender and sexual minorities and scholars of color.” Ayres spoke of Bosia’s voluminous and varied scholarship on important topics including HIV AIDS, politics of oppression, state homophobia, and food issues. He told how Bosia always builds bridges through his scholarship internationally, presenting around the world. He emphasized that his research enriches his classes and campus, making him an example of “why it still matters that a faculty member remain engaged in an active research program at an undergraduate-focused liberal arts college.”

 

Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award Winner:

Doyon

Steve Doyon

Steve Doyon, business administration and accounting (presenter Valerie Bang-Jensen from education, last year’s winner of this award). “As educators, we all try to model for our students what it means to be a dedicated, committed and engaged professional who treats others with care and respect. Steve Doyon undoubtedly represents this kind of model for our students. A proud alumnus and valedictorian of this institution, Professor Doyon approaches his work not as a job or a career, but as a calling.” She spoke of his consistently outstanding course evaluations, his notable preparation and interest in course content, and his regular personal meetings with students not only about class but also about careers and future course options. “Students regularly seek [him] out for precisely the kind of mentorship and guidance which a small institution like ours can and should offer,” she said, noting how Doyon is always willing to give of himself and is a good listener and who radiates positivity and enthusiasm – “the sort of modeling that is the essence of teaching.”

On ScholARTship

In her Convocation Address early in the ceremony to suit scheduling needs, last year’s scholarship winner Adrie Kusserow delighted VPAA Trumbower and those virtually gathered by preparing an eloquent talk despite originally thinking she would not be available due to an apparent conflict. Her talk was poetic and powerful, filled with arresting images and language. “The small beginnings of empathy begin to arise, only to get pecked and scattered by hungry flocks of tweets, twitter, tik tok and texts, gobbled by the internet’s rabid beak,” she said. Kussserow’s broad theme was the need for scholarship and art to merge if we are to meet the challenges and malaise of these troubling times adequately.

Kusserow

Adrie Kusserow

She called such a merger “ScholARTship.”  “We need to be asking: How can we make scholarly encounters for our students and the general public more viscous, sticky at a time when significant change needs to happen sooner rather than later?” And then, “We need the breadth and width of quantitative data collected by social scientists embedded in film, fiction and music, and vice versa.” She shared that “now more than ever, I feel I have an ethical responsibility to deeply engage the reader with my writing, intellectually and viscerally, to hook them from apathy or numbness or autopilot. “ And in conclusion, “If we really want to engage with the whole messy emotional human encounter with its power relations, masks, shadows, hungers, deviations and globalized identities, we will try and not see scholarship and art as opposites, but use them in tandem to coax out and sustain empathy.”

The online ceremony lasted just an hour since it had no student honor society procession with flags, nor a student speaker as in regular years since this year’s speaker would have been the same as last year’s because of the position she still holds.

Rev. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, gave an invocation to start the virtual Convocation. After Trustees Chair Casey spoke, VPAA Trumbower announced faculty promotions: Ruth Fabian-Fine of biology awarded tenure, with the following faculty promoted to full professor: Michael Bosia (political science), David Heroux (chemistry), Jon Hyde (media studies, journalism and digital arts) and Jennifer Purcell (history).

Next came the reading of citations for five newly named emeritus professors: Michael Battig, (computer science/information systems), Donna Bozzone (biology) Jo-Ellis Monaghan (mathematics), Peter Hope (biology), and Peter Tumulty (philosophy). Colleague John Trono noted Battig’s nearly 20 years of service  and significant contributions; Lubkowitz spoke admiringly and affectionately about Donna Bozzone as “the heart and soul of the Biology Department” for 33 year, and the department’s “North Star,” always illuminating a path towards a better student-centered culture; about Peter Hope, also a three-decade department veteran, Lubkowitz said, “Whether he is knee-deep in a bog holding the tiniest moss or in the laboratory examining pollen grains, Peter can somehow capture the attention of an entire class and help each student see the complexity and beauty of the natural world.”

Lloyd Simons of mathematics spoke admiringly of Jo Ellis-Monaghan and the many ways she always illustrated math creatively: “From buying a house, bottle rockets, and modelling seashells, to the spread of disease, the connectivity of the internet and algebraic structure of social units, Jo brought meaningful mathematics to her students at every level.” He noted her worldwide collaborations and notable ability to obtain research funds for decades. “She was a key factor in the College recently being awarded the prestigious S-STEM grant for supporting students in the sciences, and her vision laid the foundation for our new major programs in Statistics and in Data Science,” Simons said.

Philosophy Chair Michael Olson made the citation honoring Peter Tumulty’s retirement after 45 years as a professor of philosophy at Saint Michael’s.  He noted Tumulty’s “steadfast commitment to the Catholic liberal; arts mission of the College” and his “tireless service to the College.” It was as a teacher that Peter exercised his vocation as a philosopher, he said, taking Socrates as his pedagogical model. “Peter sought to move students to awareness of the limitations of the current state of their knowledge,” Olson said, later noting that Tumulty served three terms as Philosophy Department chair and several years as Faculty Assembly moderator. “His generosity, his friendliness and his perennial good cheer will be missed,” he said.

After the faculty awards had been announced, President Lorraine Sterritt had brief remarks, saying the Convocation celebrated “the very essence of an educational institution: service, scholarship and artistic achievement and teaching.” The times make that three-part charge to faculty especially steep, she acknowledged. “Your teaching is as complicated and as essential as ever. Your collective gift for reinvention and your commitment to the core principles of the liberal arts is truly laudable … Today — and every day – I want to stay that I see the work you are doing, and the circumstances of this pandemic put your remarkable efforts in stark relief,” the president said.

Master of Ceremonies Trumbower at one early point in the online event had new faculty “unmute” and say hello on-screen so they might be acknowledged, as normally they might be by standing in the assembly for applause.

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