Distinguished Faculty Honored – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Distinguished Faculty Honored

In honor of the lasting impact of the late Professor Joseph N. Abraham L.H.D. ’81 and Professor Emeritus of Geoscience Donald L. Woodrow P’83, the Alumni and Alumnae Associations presented the Distinguished Faculty Award (DFA) awards on Saturday, June 5 during Reunion 2010.

“Teaching of this caliber reveals itself over a lifetime, and this Distinguished Faculty Award is a thank you note that comes from generations of HWS students,” said Provost Teresa Amott, summing up the many testimonials of former students, sent on behalf of Woodrow and Abraham.

Abraham came to the Colleges in 1945 as an instructor in physical education and went on to become director of the physical education department in 1955, a full professor in 1968 and athletic director position in 1979.

Co-founder of the Environmental Studies program and co-founder of the Department of Geoscience, Woodrow joined the HWS faculty as an assistant professor of geology and rose to full professor in 1975. 

“Always a devoted teacher, Don nonetheless remained an active researcher for his entire career, achieving international recognition as an expert on Devonian clastic sedimentation and championing the role of undergraduate research as an important part of science education,” says Professor of Geoscience Brooks McKinney. “He was also very active in the community, helping to establish the current faculty governance structure, serving as a campus leader, and for many years serving the City of Geneva as a member of its Planning Board.  Don is clearly deserving, can’t imagine many who would be more.”

“Don embodied the picture I had of HWS faculty,” said Adam Polcek ’92, who presented the award to Woodrow.  “He really took the time to get to know students.”

As co-designer of the Science-on-Seneca program, Woodrow enabled local high school students to explore the living environment of Seneca Lake through hands-on research.  Woodrow’s own research includes major emphases on Devonian sedimentology and stratigraphy in North America and Europe and on Great Lakes sedimentology.  He served the Colleges as associate dean of faculty from 1991-1994, and is a past recipient of the faculty’s scholarship and teaching prizes.  He was given the Outstanding Educator Award by the Eastern Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists “in recognition of a dedicated geologist-educator who, with quiet dignity and humor, has inspired students both in the classroom and in the field to appreciate the beauty of the science of geology.”

He served for two years as associate dean of faculty, and has had scholarly appointments at various institutions including Penn State University, the University of Reading, England, SUNY Binghamton, the University of Rochester, and the Open University, in England. Woodrow is a registered professional geologist in Pennsylvania, and has been designated a certified professional geologist by the American Institute of Professional Geologists. His research focuses on the sedimentation and water quality of Seneca Lake.

Presenting Abraham’s son with the award, Honorary Trustee Roy Dexheimer ’55, P’86, LL.D. ’80, a former superintendent in the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, said: “Joe knew his craft and was generous in sharing his skills.  He told me, ‘We are in the business of giving young men and women first, second and third chances.’  That’s the best advice I ever got about teaching from the best teacher I ever had.”

Abraham’s tenure was marked by great growth in the successful intercollegiate athletic program, including back-to-back NCAA Division III lacrosse championships in 1980 and 1981. Among his many honors, he was presented with an Alumni Association Citation in 1968 and was awarded the Statesmen Athletic Association Annual Award for outstanding contributions to Hobart Athletics.  In addition to his work for HWS, he was a three time USA Olympic Trainer. Abraham was also inducted into the Helms Hall of Fame in 1970 and is the recipient of the Thomas J. Sheehan New York State Athletic Trainer’s Association award in 1977. Abraham died on Dec. 26, 1981. His honorary degree was bestowed upon him on Dec. 24 by then President Allan A. Kuusisto P’78.

At the “Athletics at Hobart and William Smith: Then, Now, Tomorrow” panel, Edward Froelich ’55, former Hobart lacrosse coach Dave Urick and Hobart and William Smith Athletics directors Mike Hanna ’68 and Deb Steward recalled their memories of Abraham.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  Joe set the standard for us at HWS,” Urick said.

“Players went to him with problems, and he helped them,” said Froelich.  “This award is well-deserved.”

The Alumni Association of Hobart College and the Alumnae Association of William Smith College jointly award the Distinguished Faculty Award, which was established to emphasize the importance that graduates of these Colleges place on the contributions of outstanding faculty members of the past.

According to the Alum Councils, “It is our way of recognizing and honoring those who were our mentors, who molded us and nurtured us during our intellectual awakening, who taught us our limits and challenged our capabilities, and who inspired the best in us. More than anything else during our college years, outstanding teachers made the experience so valuable, and we recognize these professors as worthy of particular distinction and honor.”