Ceremony honors scholars, teachers of Saint Michael’s

Major teaching awards at annual Academic Convocation go to Professors Renee Carrico, Ruth Fabian-Fine and Patrick Standen

September 19, 2022
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
Felicia Fil

Student Speaker Felicia Fil ’24 addresses Friday’s Academic Convocation in McCarthy Recital Hall as Dean Gretchen Galbraith listens at right. (photos by Patrick Bohan)

At this year’s annual Academic Convocation — 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 in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall mid-afternoon on Friday, Sept. 16, to:

  • Present three major annual faculty awards: for service; for scholarship & artistic achievement; and for teaching
  • Hear President Lorraine Sterritt speak about her keen awareness and appreciation of faculty work.
  • Enjoy inspiring student remarks from Felicia Fil ‘24, after students representing the academic honor societies on campus processed in carrying the flags of their respective groups, accompanied by the recorded beautiful guitar music performed by Professor Bill Ellis of the Fine Arts/Music faculty. Professor Ellis, as the winner of last year’s scholarship & artistic achievement award, was to have been the day’s keynote speaker, but was too ill with COVID to appear, said Master of Ceremonies Jeffry Trumbower, vice president of academic affairs, near the ceremony’s start. He said the administration hopes to determine a later time and occasion for the community to hear Ellis speak when he has recovered.
  • 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, as previous, Academic Convocation was the presentation of the three always highly anticipated major faculty awards, which, Trumbower said, were chosen by the Faculty Council based on nominations from across the College. The winners (listed with name of award presenter – the previous year’s winners — and some words from each citation):

Renee Carrico

Renee Carrico

Norbert A. Kuntz Service Award winner: Renee Carrico, psychology (presenter Jeffrey Ayres, political science/international relations): “Renee Carrico’s service contributions have encompassed an extraordinary range of activities that include departmental and College-wide leadership roles which have spanned a decade during a time of disruption, change, and opportunity at the College. … In addition to the regular business of overseeing the College curriculum ,,, she collaborated on the College’s planning and response to the COVID-19 crisis and including the necessary adjustments to academics at all levels. [She also] served on the working group for the College partnership with the consulting group Art & Science …identifying strategic opportunities to improve the College’s market position and attract a better and larger pool of students. In 2020, Dr. Carrico volunteered to serve on the COVID-19 Academic Planning Group …to examine and anticipate the challenges inherent to teaching in the COVID-19 pandemic … From 2012 to 2018, Dr. Carrico served two consecutive terms as Psychology Department Chair, including conducting a full departmental review, and overseeing a substantial revision of the Psychology Major and Minor programs… She also continues to contribute to student recruitment efforts and communicates individually with prospective students through Faculty Yield and other initiatives.”

ruth ff

Ruth Fabian-Fine

Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award Winner: Ruth Fabian-Fine, biology/neuroscience, presenter Dean Gretchen Galbraith on behalf of William Ellis, fine arts/music): “Ruth is well-known around these parts for her research involving the Central American Hunting Spider … [and] uses these spiders to study how sensory overstimulation can damage the nervous system. …Ruth specifically wants to understand how such overstimulation, such as loud music or video gaming, affects the nervous system at the cellular and molecular level. Ruth’s model system also has important medical implications regarding the effects of the aging process on neural tissue, and it will undoubtedly generate important questions, and answers, for many years to come. Ruth has built her lab, mentored numerous students, and published important research articles since arriving at Saint Michael’s [and have] included almost 20 different undergraduate co-authors, and the majority of the work originated entirely on our campus. As a testament to her microscopy skills, one of her images was chosen for the cover of a journal … Ruth had to acquire the equipment she needed [for her advanced microscopy] through grants and by working with Institutional Advancement. Her grant record is laudable…..But what is most impressive about Ruth’s scholarly output is her incorporation of students into her research program. Ruth typically has more than 10 research students involved at any given time … Ruth has positively influenced the scholarship culture … because she is inspirational, collaborative, and has an infectious ‘can-do’ approach to problem-solving.”

Patrick Standen accepts his award as last year’s honoree Carolyn Lukens-Olson reads the citation.

2018 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award Winner: Patrick Standen, philosophy; presenter Carolyn Lukens-Olson, Spanish. “Patrick Standen is a committed and effective teacher of philosophy who regularly shares his knowledge, inside and outside the classroom. He has taught a range of courses that serve important requirements and programs, courses that include first-year seminar, introductory philosophy, introductory logic, healthcare ethics, and, most recently, philosophy of disability. For philosophy of disability, he literally wrote the book, having published Disability: The Genealogy of a Concept from Prehistory to Mid-20th Century with Onion River Press. Patrick is highly supportive of students and ensures they are set up for success … [for 20 years] Patrick has been a thoughtful participant in campus and departmental conversations about pedagogy, has experimented with new teaching modalities, and has revised his syllabi to meet the changing interests, needs, and identities of our students.  He [also[ his knowledge with the public at events like the Irish Heritage Festival and Burlington’s Public Philosophy Week, as well as Shelburne Community School and Edmunds Middle School, among many other venues. Indeed, Patrick is squarely in the company of the College’s leading teacher-citizens.”

A full program

The 3:30 p.m. ceremony in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall opened with beautiful recorded music provided Bill Ellis of the Fine Arts/Music faculty. He is an accomplished guitarist who often for these events in the past has sat stage and played pleasant songs from the folk genre that is his specialty, from about 15 minutes prior to the opening procession, and during it including for the opening procession. Organizers arranged to play his recorded work over the Hall’s sound system this year since Ellis was out sick.

With a song from Ellis’ upcoming album “Ghost Hymns” playing, students processed into the Recital Hall with their colorful flags and took seats in front rows before the stage along with faculty stage participants in academic regalia. Alaba Apesin, professor of business administration and accounting and long a dedicated member of the campus Catholic faith community gave an invocation. “Continue to favor our colleagues who are being honored today and let them thrive abundantly. Guide and protect our leadership, faculty, staff, students and community,” she prayed.


Professor Alaba Apesin offers the Invocation Friday afternoon. Master of Ceremonies Jeffrey Trumbower, vice president for academic affairs, is at right.

Trumbower then recognized the student/recent-graduate flag-bearers from academic honor societies present (all Class of 2023 seniors unless otherwise noted): Ryan Hay ’19, Phi Beta Kappa; Olivia Politi, biology; Kevin Russell, Catholic honors society; Sierra Pepin ’24, education; Ashley DeLeon, Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts; Scott Czerwinski, economics; Grace Erholtz, history; Aidan Westfall, mathematics; Adrien Harwood, political science; Carol Goodrich, psychology; Bertine Olsen, business; Brooke Hodgeman, physics; Jason Boucher, science; and Rada Ruggles, religious studies.

That led into to the traditional address from a student, this year from Felicia Fil’24, the secretary of community engagement for the Student Government Association and a psychology major from Hadley, MA. In her talk, the student speaker talked about the profound impact that Saint Michael’s faculty have had on her life. She said as a first-year she might have asked “why me?” to an invitation to speak at such an occasion, but now she has learned to respond, “why not me?” She linked that to faculty reassuring her of her full worth and seeing her potential. Fil spoke family losses she endured in recent years and the support faculty offered at a basic human level that meant so much in a crucial time. Like parents, she said of faculty, “you nurture us, guide us, mentor us, provide us with advice…and are invested in our lives and wellbeing.” Faculty also have taught her to give, trust, forgive, listen, enjoy and be patient” all in a proper spirit, she said, closing with this advice for fellow students: “Don’t strive to be the smartest in the room, but rather the person who is most eager to learn and grow.”  She quoted Sir Ken Robinson: “What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world, what you do for others, lives on forever.” To faculty, finally, she said, “Thank you for showing up and for allowing me to stand out.”

Trumbower also recognized faculty who in the past year reached the milestone of promotion to full professor: Karen Popovich from the Business Administration and Accounting Department and Shane Lamos from chemistry. Both were present and stood to be acknowledged with applause.

The assembly later heard brief remarks from Saint Michael’s President Lorraine Sterritt. The president said the occasion celebrated “the very essence of an educational institution: service, scholarship and artistic achievement, and teaching,” adding, “The work that we do in this learning community is valuable, necessary, and inspiring. We know from our students that engagement in the classroom is the most important part of their Saint Michael’s experience, and your work to make that experience meaningful and transformative every day is at the heart of our educational mission.” She closed by expressing her gratitude to all present and assuring faculty that she sees and appreciates the work they are doing.

Retiring or departing faculty


Mary Beth Doyle, right, with Valerie Bang-Jensen reading the citation.

The next part of the program honored new emeritus professors as result of their retirements in the past year or two. Not present but recognized with the reading of their names and applause were Traci Griffith (MJD) and Reza Ramazani (Economics)

Here are this year’s retirees who were present and came forward for recognition and presentation of gifts, with some words from citations for the ceremony:

Mary Beth Doyle, education (citation read by Valerie Bang-Jensen): “Mary Beth was a standard bearer of the education department for over twenty years. Her service to the college and department is too long to even list on a CV, and much of went unnoticed. Mary Beth would see what needed to be done, and then simply made it happen.”


Tara Natarajan

Tara Natarajan, economics and former dean (citation read by Dean Gretchen Galbraith on behalf of Economics Chair Patrick Walsh, who could not attend): “Tara’s scholarship has focused on development, poverty, globalization, institutions, economic methodology, and included fieldwork in agricultural communities in India ….Tara’s combination of broad perspective, intellectual rigor, and profound work ethic has left an ongoing impact at Saint Michael’s.”


Alayne Schroll, right, as David Heroux reads the citation.

Alayne Schroll, chemistry (citation read by chemistry Chair David Heroux): “…extraordinary teacher, innovator, and groundbreaking, cherished colleague … her career started in 1986, 36 years ago … Alayne exceled in teaching, scholarship, and service … Much loved by her students in the wide variety of courses she taught, she was best known for the lectures and labs associated with the biochemistry sequence. In service, she chaired the Chemistry Department from 1999 to 2006, served as the Leavy Family Chair in Chemistry from 2012 to 2022, regularly coordinated the Biochemistry Program, and was the campus coordinator for the Vermont Genetics Network. Alayne will be remembered for her consistent work ethic, and her reliability. Colleagues will miss her most for her kindness, generosity, and friendship.”

Joan Wry, English (citation read by English Chair Nat Lewis): “In her words and actions, in her brilliance and dedication, in her compassion and kindness, Joan Wry represents the very best of Saint Michael’s College. As an undergraduate at the college, she was an exemplary student and athlete, and earned her place in the S.M.C. Hall of Fame. As the Associate Dean of the college, she supported our students by guiding and mentoring them through their college journeys. As Director of the Honors Program, Joan encouraged our students toward the most adventurous intellectual flights.

Joan Wry

Joan Wry waves from the audience.

Over the years, she tirelessly gave her time to numerous women’s and men’s athletic teams, to the Pontigny Society, to Mercy Connections and advocacy for the incarcerated, and to retreats at Saint Anne’s Shrine. A scholar of penetrating, innovative essays, Joan has repeatedly demonstrated a deep understanding of American literature. Perhaps above all, following in the footsteps of her beloved father John Reiss, Joan was a remarkable teacher. Joan’s passion for the classroom is legendary, and she is revered by a generation of students who remember her focused, warmhearted approach to their education. She motivated her students to do their best work and to be their best selves. Joan may have retired, but her integrity, her community spirit, and her boundless love for Saint Michael’s College will long endure.

Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows
And hints the future which it owes. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Nature,” 1844)



Father David Theroux, S.S.E. gives the benediction.

Fr. David Theroux, S.S.E, gave the benediction before the gathering retired to a Sodexo-catered reception in the McCarthy lobby: “Lord, we believe that You will provide for us.  We look forward to the ways that You will surprise and amaze us.  We have confidence that that You will touch each of us this academic year.  We believe that You will use us to brighten dark spaces and to lift sad hearts. Fuel us with a passion rooted in love:  to add color to dullness; to bring life to dead places; to strive to bring hope to lost who cannot find their way.  Bless our work and our time.  Guide our steps and our progress.  Grant us the power of Your Holy Spirit to work together:  to seek ways beyond what we see as impossible and to discover paths of cooperation beyond our human stubbornness so that the work of our hands and the words of mouths may bear fruit in abundance this academic year.”

nat and Joan

Nat Lew speaks eloquent words about longtime English Department colleague Joan Wry ’79, who is retiring.

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