|Convocation Frames Family Weekend with Awards and Thoughtful Remarks on Importance of Human Helping
November 02, 2010
Dr. Greg Murphy's Address
Thomas Jefferson Award Citation for Laurie Heyer
Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship citation to Trent Foley
Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship citation to Magdalena Maiz-Pena
Goodwin-Exxon Award Citation to Kaneisha Gaston ‘13
Goodwin-Exxon Award Citation to Faheem Rathore ‘12
Goodwin-Exxon Award Citation to Hannah Pommersheim ‘11
A highlight of Family Weekend was the college's Fall Convocation on Saturday morning, Oct. 30. Faculty and senior students donned their formal academic regalia for the ceremony in Duke Family Performance Hall, with the platform party seated scenically in front of the set for the weekend's Theatre Department production of "Pride and Prejudice."
|Dr. Greg Murphy '85 presented the keynote address at Fall Convocation
The ceremony included presentation of awards to faculty and students and a keynote address by Dr. Greg Murphy, a 1985 Davidson graduate who spoke compassionately about the importance of helping fellow humans. Murphy has conducted medical mission trips around the globe for 20 years, and most recently organized a team of 15 medical personnel to spend 10 days ministering to Haitians following the January earthquake that devastated parts of the island.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Laurie J. Heyer received the Thomas Jefferson Award. Although she teaches mathematics courses at all levels, her research specialty is bioinformatics, a field which employs math in the investigation of biological functions. Her citation noted, "We have in our midst one who is not only a fine teacher, but a true innovator. The presence and the work of this gifted individual have been transforming, on learning at Davidson College and more broadly in the nation."
Heyer lectures widely on bioinformatics and regularly supervises student projects that blend mathematics, biology, and computer science. She and Malcolm Campbell, Professor of Biology, have been collaborating on projects since she joined the faculty in 2000. In 2002 they published the first-ever undergraduate genomics textbook, Discovering Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics, now in its second edition. Currently they, along with Associate Professor of Biology Chris Paradise, are writing a new textbook for biology majors, incorporating "Bio-Math Explorations" to help students discover the importance of mathematics in biology.
Heyer has been heavily involved in the Mathematical Association of America, serving as the inaugural student activities coordinator for the five-state southeast region, and as a founding officer of BIO-SIGMAA, the national special interest group for mathematical and computational biology within the MAA.
She has also been involved with Campbell in the national Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT), a program founded at Davidson to provide support for institutions in creating undergraduate genomics programs.
Heyer and her students have also advanced the field of genomics by creating open source software for analyzing microarrays. She and six student co-authors published a paper about the software in Bioinformatics journal. She has helped train over 350 faculty nationwide to use the software, and several thousand students have used the software to analyze their own data.
Most recently, she and Campbell have mentored students in another cutting-edge biological science - synthetic biology. The two have led student teams for the past six years to compete in a synthetic biology competition at MIT, where the goal is modifying microbes genetically so they do useful things. The Davidson teams have designed, modeled and built bacterial "computers" that can solve mathematical problems.
She is also active on campus as a fan at athletic events, advisor for Turner eating house, a member of faculty committees, and chair of the campus ministry committee at her church. She is famous among students for having developed the mathematical algorithm used by the residence life office for assigning students to Patterson Court houses.
Faculty members who received awards at Fall Convocation were (l-r) Laurie Heyer, Trent Foley and Magdalena Maiz-Pena.
Professor of Religion W. Trent Foley and Williamson Professor of Spanish Magdalena Maiz-Peña received Boswell Family Faculty Fellowships. The award provides them funds for a full-paid, full-year sabbatical in 2011-12. Davidson's standard sabbatical policy funds just one semester of full-paid leave.
Foley teaches in the area of early Christianity, and has special research interest in Christianity in early Anglo-Saxon England. His sabbatical will be devoted to further study of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Written by the monk Bede in the 730s, this work tells the story of how invading English immigrants conquered and displaced Britain's natives in the mid-fifth century and were converted to Christianity in the seventh.
As the very first English-speaking scholar of note, Bede tells the story of a God-ordained conquest that, in Foley's opinion, helped inspire much later English colonial conquests in America and elsewhere. Foley has written two previous books -- Images of Sanctity in Eddius Stephanus' Life of Bishop Wilfrid and Bede: A Biblical Miscellany (co-authored with Arthur G. Holder). He is past president of the southeast region of the American Academy of Religion, and joined the Davidson faculty in 1984.
Professor Magdalena Maiz-Peña specializes in twentieth-century Latin American women writers, life-writing and the politics of representation, and contemporary Latin American literary and cultural narratives.
She will use the Boswell Award to write several chapters in a new book titled Urban Geographies, Gender and Cultural Production in Mexico 1920-1950. It concerns a group of women in Mexico City who worked together on cultural projects in the areas of photography, art and cinematography.
Maiz-Peña has previously received the college's Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, the ODK Outstanding Teaching Award, and the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award. She also received the Latin American Coalition Award in 2007 for her work with the regional Latino community.
The student awards at Convocation highlighted academic achievement and community service. Alumni Association Awards for the top grade point average in the first year of study went to sophomores Kathleen R. "Katie" Voegtli of Blountville, Tenn. and Megan N. Spanjers of Mendota Heights, Minn.
Three students received Goodwin-Exxon Awards for high standards of character, good sportsmanship, friendliness and consideration for others.
Sophomore Kaneisha L. Gaston from Charlotte was praised as a warm and caring person who provides deep insight into pressing social issues. A Bonner Community Service Scholar, she displays a passion for education and served last summer as a Freedom Schools Intern.
Faheem H. Rathore '12, a political science major from Jacksonville, Fla., was cited as perhaps the most respected person and reliable member of the junior class. His citation read, "When he talks, fellow students lean forward to be sure to catch all that he has to say." An SGA senator for the last three years, he is also a Chidsey Leadership Program Fellow, president of the Muslim Students Association, and a hall counselor for first-year students.
Senior political science major Hannah G. Pommersheim, a Belk Scholar from Vermillion, S. D., was praised for a broad range of community and campus involvement. She chairs the college's Engage for Change initiative this year, served on a Strategic Plan implementation team examining the college's graduation requirements, and was selected as a Stapleton/Davidson Fellow to work in Charlotte with women recovering from addiction and a program that empowers homeless neighbors to advocate for their rights.
She has also been involved with the Student Government Association, Leadership Davidson and the Omicron Delta Kappa campus leadership Honor Society.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,920 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.