The University of Montevallo celebrated its beginnings Oct. 9 with the 118th Founders’ Day. UM opened its doors Oct. 12, 1896, as Alabama Girls’ Industrial School and has grown and developed into Alabama’s only public liberal arts university.
The theme of Founders’ Day 2014 was “Smart. Balanced. Prepared.” reflecting the ideal University of Montevallo students and alumni. The day began with a convocation in Palmer Hall featuring UM alumnus and dean of the law school at the University of Alabama, Mark Brandon, as speaker. Awards were presented to several of UM’s faculty, staff and alumni, and the program concluded with the traditional investiture of the senior class.
In his remarks, Brandon spoke to the value of a liberal arts education at a small university. He noted that, while life is unpredictable, students who have a liberal arts education are prepared to make decisions and take on projects based on a broad and deep base of knowledge. He said that, while large classrooms certainly have their place, small classrooms encourage interaction and familiarity among professors and students, and those students are actively engaged in learning.
James Day, professor of history, was named the 2014 University Scholar. This award recognizes significant contributions to scholarship and creative endeavor. After serving 16 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, Day joined the faculty at the University of Montevallo in 1997 and has not only taught a myriad of history courses, but also has served UM at various times as chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, dean of graduate studies, and assistant vice president for academic affairs. Day’s book, Diamonds in the Rough: A History of Alabama’s Cahaba Coal Field, (University of Alabama Press, 2013) was the winner of the Alabama Historical Association’s Clinton Jackson Coley Award for best work on Alabama local history (2014).
The Faculty Service Award went to Benton Tyler, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Montevallo. This award recognizes a professor’s dedication to the provision of service and his or her impact upon the University community. In 2005, Tyler assisted in establishing the Montevallo Organization of Gaming and continues to serve as its faculty adviser. He leads the student members on volunteer expeditions to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and in Halloween events for local children and charities. He was instrumental in establishing the minor in game studies and design at UM in the fall semester of 2011 and has worked to recruit students for the GSD minor at many gaming, science fiction and anime conventions.
John Burling, professor of psychology, earned the Academic Advising Award. This award is presented to a full-time faculty or staff member at the University of Montevallo who has demonstrated excellence in academic advising. One nominator wrote, “Despite an exceptionally heavy advising load of 70 students, Dr. Burling provides individualized attention to ensure that his advisees are well informed and well prepared. He listens to his advisees’ academic and career goals and guides them toward meeting those goals.”
The recipient of the Adjunct Faculty Teaching award was Steve Jordan. This award is given to an adjunct instructor who has taught at UM for at least six semesters, who has demonstrated effective teaching and who has had interaction with a significant number of students. Jordan, a University of Montevallo alumnus, has practiced as a licensed professional counselor for 34 years, working as a therapist with individuals, couples and families in school, court and hospital settings as well as in private practice. He has provided mental health services following a number of disasters including the World Trade Center attacks, hurricanes Ivan and Katrina and Alabama tornados. Jordan brings this wealth of applied experience to the classroom, using real-world examples to illustrate points from textbooks. His students applaud his humor, organization, clarity and enthusiasm.
Sandra Lott was the recipient of the Alumna Loyalty Award, bestowed on a UM graduate who has demonstrated loyalty and dedication in his or her strength of service to the University. After earning a master’s degree at Emory University, she returned to her alma mater, where she joined the English faculty and taught for 37 years. Through the years, Lott has provided leadership to the Montevallo chapter of the American Association of University Women, serving as president several times. In addition, she has helped establish numerous scholarships benefiting students in various fields of study.
Tom Sanders received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. This honor recognizes a UM professor’s dedication to the provision of a quality education and his or her impact upon students through the teaching-learning process. Sanders, an honors graduate of the University of Montevallo, enjoyed a productive career in health care administration with Baptist Medical Centers/Baptist Health System of Alabama before joining the faculty in UM’s Michael E. Stephens College of Business as an assistant professor in 2003. His years of experience in the corporate world have provided a strong foundation for the lessons he imparts to his students. Sanders has been instrumental in the initiation of UM’s MBA program and continues to be an enthusiastic advocate, speaking to prospective MBA candidates at every opportunity.
Dean of Students Tammi Dahle was the recipient of the Outstanding Staff Service Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize a staff member’s excellence in service and loyalty to the University. After earning two degrees at UM, Dahle spent several years in the private sector as an employee assistance counselor. She returned to her alma mater in 2000 as director of the University’s Career Center. She served in several positions in that area prior to being named dean of students. Dahle’s service to the University of Montevallo has always been directed toward students. She is a member of the UM Care Team, identifying and providing assistance to at-risk students, and she has counseled countless students, not only on career development, but also on personal and social issues.
A reception for seniors and their families was held immediately following the convocation.
The Founders’ Day celebration concluded in the evening with the 17th Annual Life Raft Debate, a lively argument by a panel of UM faculty members vying for the last seat on a mythical life raft after a purported global cataclysm has wiped out all other human population. Each panel member tries to convince the audience, who selects the winner by a vote, why his or her discipline should be the one to be preserved in the new civilization, while the others are left to drown. The oar of victory was awarded to Robert Barone, professor of history, who defended his discipline by arguing that, without history to guide the world, the same mistakes would be made, including those that caused the disaster at hand.
For more information about the Founders’ Day award winners, visit montevallo.edu/2014/10/07/118th-founders-day-award-winners.