Praised for their outstanding contributions as teachers, mentors and scholars at HWS, Roger Farrand ’49, P’78, associate professor emeritus of English; Lois F. Nellis ’46, professor emerita of biology; and Ann B. Oaks ’74, P’84, P’85, P’89, associate professor emerita of mathematics, were all bestowed the Distinguished Faculty Award (DFA) during Reunion 2016.
Since its inception in 1990, the ceremony marked the first time that three alums were honored simultaneously. Only 53 individuals, including Farrand, Nellis and Oaks, have received the honor.
“At the heart of any institution of higher education are the dedicated faculty and staff who devote their professional and personal lives to ensuring that students have the kinds of transformational experiences which will lead – as we say here at the Colleges – to lives of consequence,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata during the ceremony. “Faculty define an educational experience, impacting their students through the knowledge they bestow and, perhaps more importantly, by the example they set as mentors and human beings.”
Representing the joint DFA committee of the Hobart Alumni Association and the William Smith Alumnae Association, Scott O’Sullivan ’91 and Elaine Bruno Vukelic ’91 served as the event’s masters of ceremony. They were introduced by Dr. Jeremy Cushman ’96, president of the Hobart Alumni Association. Dr. Lisa DeLucia Bruno ’04 and Dr. Herman Tull ’78 also serve on the committee.
Presenting the first award, Cushman recalled words used by other alums to describe Nellis – among them: an inspiration, role model, passionate, dedicated and icon.
Cushman shared the following: “Professor Nellis once wrote, ‘Teaching is always challenging. I’ve continually found myself trying out new methods. Students change as do our expectations of them. The trick is, of course, to get the students to think for themselves. Not to be passive absorbers and to get them to enjoy what they are doing. I believe I am succeeding.'”
“Well, Professor Nellis, I think you succeeded,” said Cushman, bestowing the award, which was accepted by her sister, Marilyn K. Nellis.
Thomas Toher ’68 presented the award to Farrand, extending his reflections about their connections at HWS and in the years that followed.
“Roger, this award is a direct result of your lifelong devotion to the students of these Colleges,” Toher said. “Whether in writing, film or drama classes, in the Little Theatre or in the living room of 408 Pulteney Street, you taught and nurtured us, encouraged our talents while being honest with your criticism.”
Vukelic discussed how Oaks inspired her not only academically, but also in her life and career. Oaks exuded a great passion and enthusiasm through her teaching, Vukelic said, and provided a strong role model of a woman in, at that time, a predominantly male field.
“Teaching at William Smith and Hobart is one of the greatest jobs that anyone could ever have, because I love mathematics so much that sharing it with someone else is just absolutely necessary for me,” Oaks said upon receiving the award. “When I stand and look at what our students have done, I absolutely feel like my time was well spent.”
President Mark D. Gearan recognized the three recipients for their service. “Today is so special as we kick of Reunion Weekend because I think it says something very powerful. All three of these distinguished faculty colleagues have been educated here at the Colleges,” Gearan said. “It says a lot about our Alumni and Alumnae Associations that have reached back over the arc of time to recognize excellence and to fondly remember their faculty members.”
Nominations for the award are sought by all alums. Recipients are professors who are retired or have moved on from HWS for more than five years or are deceased.