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Contact:  Kirsten Nelson
(804) 225-2627
For Immediate Release

January 21, 2004

Governor Warner Announces TIAA-CREF Virginia
Outstanding Faculty Awards Recipients for 2004

RICHMOND - Governor Mark R. Warner today announced the 11 recipients of the TIAA-CREF Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards, the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at Virginia’s colleges and universities.

“It is because of men and women like these that Virginia boasts a higher education system that is the envy of the rest of the United States, and indeed the world,” Governor Warner said. “Our colleges and universities attract this outstanding intellectual capital that makes them economic engines for the entire Commonwealth. I have included support for higher education as an integral part of my budget and tax reform proposals to help retain this talent.”

The State Capitol ceremony marked the 18th annual presentation of the prestigious awards. The Outstanding Faculty Awards (OFA) program recognizes the finest among Virginia’s college faculty for their demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and public service. For the first time, TIAA-CREF, which manages the premier retirement system for people employed in education and research in the U.S., has stepped forward to sponsor the awards program after the Virginia General Assembly cut all state appropriations.

Each recipient received a $4,000 award and a specially designed commemorative plaque from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), which administers the OFA program.

“This year’s class of TIAA-CREF Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards recipients showcases the remarkably diverse contributions of college faculty across the Commonwealth,” said SCHEV Chairman Carl N. Kelly. “We are extremely grateful to TIAA-CREF, whose generous sponsorship of these awards has allowed us to continue to honor Virginia’s outstanding faculty members," added SCHEV Acting Executive Director Nancy Cooley.

“TIAA-CREF is proud to be this year's sponsor of the Virginia outstanding faculty awards,” said Russell Sykes, Director of TIAA-CREF's Virginia office based in Charlottesville. “We value our partnership with the public and private colleges and universities in Virginia, and are pleased to have this role in recognizing Virginia's outstanding faculty.”

This year, 86 faculty members from 35 institutions were nominated. All Virginia institutions are invited to participate in the annual competition; candidates for the award are nominated by their peers.

There are nearly 10,000 full-time faculty at Virginia's public and private colleges and universities eligible to be nominated. SCHEV convenes a special selection committee, consisting of past OFA recipients, faculty, college administrators, and business and community leaders to help it select each year's winners.

TIAA-CREF, with nearly $300 billion in assets under management, is a national financial services leader and the premier retirement system for higher education and research employees. Further information can be found at

Since the Outstanding Faculty Awards program began in 1987, 205 faculty members have received this high honor (including this year’s recipients).

2004 TIAA-CREF Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards Recipients

(links to brief bios included)

Anna Marie Baker
Associate Professor of Early Childhood Development
Tidewater Community College

Rita B. Dandridge
Professor of English
Norfolk State University

Della D. Fenster
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Richmond

John E. Graves
Professor of Fisheries Science
College of William and Mary

Joann Hess Grayson
Professor of Psychology
James Madison University

Jonathan Haidt
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Virginia

Chi-Kwong Li
Professor of Mathematics
College of William and Mary

John S. O’Connor
Associate Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies
George Mason University

James Conrad Squire
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
Virginia Military Institute

Gregory L. Weiss
Professor of Sociology
Roanoke College

Charles Edgar Wilson, Jr.
Associate Professor of English
Old Dominion University

ANNA MARIE BAKER - Tidewater Community College

Ms. Baker is program head and associate professor of early childhood development at Tidewater Community College (TCC). The recipient of TCC’s 2003 Special Achievement Award, a two-time recipient of the Teaching in Excellence Award from the Virginia Community College Institute for Instructional Excellence, and the recipient of the first Safe Harbor for Children Award in 2000 from Places and Programs for Children, Inc., Ms. Baker has been recognized throughout the Commonwealth as a leader in early childhood development. In her 25 years at Tidewater Community College she built a well-designed and highly reputable program of study that is now the model followed by each degree-offering community-college program in the Virginia system. Ms. Baker is also the author of the proposed Preschool Guideline for Learning for the Commonwealth, which is currently under review by the Governor’s office.

RITA B. DANDRIDGE, Ph.D. - Norfolk State University

Rita B. Dandridge is a professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Norfolk State University (NSU). A recipient of NSU’s Roy A. Woods Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998, Dandridge was elected to the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association in 2003. She has published three books and dozens of research and review articles in her specialty of African-American women’s literature during her 29-year tenure at Norfolk State. A recipient of various stipends and study grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and the Office of Civil Rights, Dandridge has enhanced the quality of the teaching through extensive travel to Africa as well as academic and literary conference across the United States. Dandridge has received perfect scores on the teaching component of her annual evaluations 27 out of the 29 times that she has been evaluated by her professional peers at Norfolk State.

DELLA D. FENSTER, Ph.D. - University of Richmond

Della D. Fenster is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Richmond (UR). She received the university’s Distinguished Educator Award in 2003 for her seamless blend of outstanding teaching and world-class scholarship. In the span of nine years, Fenster has established an international reputation in the field of mathematics history. Her writing has appeared in major refereed international journals and in well-known collective works. In 2001, she was invited to participate in a special conference at the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach (the Research Institute of the German Mathematics Society) in Oberwolfach, Germany, the premier site in Europe, and arguably the world, for conferences on all aspects of mathematics. Her contributions to this conference led to international recognition and invitations to speak throughout Europe. In 2002-2003, she received a Quest Grant to bring one American and three European historians of mathematics to the University of Richmond for a speaker series. Fenster’s efforts in the classroom bring mathematics, and her students’ interests, to life.

JOHN E. GRAVES, Ph.D. - College of William and Mary

John E. Graves is a professor in the School of Marine Science (SMS), and chair of the Department of Fisheries Science in the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), at the College of William and Mary. He is an inspiring, deeply committed teacher as well as an internationally recognized leader and scholar in the field of fisheries genetics and marine science. During his 13-year tenure at William and Mary, during which he has also served in the Department of Biology, Dr. Graves has received both the SMS/VIMS Outstanding Teacher Award and the university’s Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. In 2001, he was the first fisheries scientist to ever receive the Team Member of the Month award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and in 1995, he was appointed chair of the U.S. Advisory Committee to the International Commission of the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The U.S. Department of Commerce recently recognized his “unparalleled” impact on rebuilding stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna and north Atlantic swordfish, as well as his exceptional leadership in other conservation efforts. Graves has received over $3 million in research grants or contracts, published his significant research findings in major scientific journals, and made presentations on his research to audiences in the U.S. and Europe. Author of 59 papers, Graves has consistently encouraged his students to publish, and every graduate student in his program has done so, as have several undergraduates who have worked in his laboratory.

JOANN H. GRAYSON, Ph.D. - James Madison University

Joann H. Grayson is a professor of psychology at James Madison University (JMU). After being appointed and re-appointed by three consecutive Virginia governors to the Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, of which she was elected chair in 1985, Grayson received the board’s Outstanding Leadership Award in 1993. Recognized as a national expert in her field, Grayson was invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on Education at a hearing on prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in 1991. During her 27-year career at JMU, she has made over 70 state, regional, national or international presentations and published over 80 articles or book chapters. Since 1981, Grayson has been editor and publisher of the “Virginia Child Protection Newsletter,” which is distributed to over 12,000 agencies and individuals throughout the U.S. and the world. Very active in her local community, Grayson received a major state prevention grant in 1980 that enabled the Harrisonburg-Rockingham community to initiate 11 new prevention programs; she was also a founder of First Step, Inc., a shelter for battered women. Grayson’s “Psychology of Child Abuse and Neglect” course at JMU has been completed by over 1,200 students, hundreds of whom now work with children who are potential victims of abuse and neglect. Students under Grayson’s supervision have performed tens of thousands of hours of service-learning work - over 9,000 hours last year alone - and are uniformly recognized for their superior preparation.

JONATHAN HAIDT, Ph.D. - University of Virginia

Jonathan Haidt is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia (UVa). In 1998, in only his third year at UVa, students in its psychology department named Haidt “Outstanding Professor,” the earliest that a UVa psychology faculty member has ever received the award. He received it again in 2003, the same year he received one of the university’s eight All-University Teaching Awards. In 2001, Haidt received the Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology, which is one of the two largest prizes ($100,000) in all of psychology and is awarded for the best research and theory in positive psychology. A colleague at UVa describes Dr. Haidt as “the most thoughtful teacher I have encountered at the University,” while one of his peers in the academic community describes him as “the most original young scholar in the study of morality, emotion, and culture today.”

CHI-KWONG LI, Ph.D. - College of William and Mary

Chi-Kwong Li is the Ferguson Professor of Mathematics at the College of William and Mary (W&M); he is also the chair of W&M’s Mathematics department, is associated with its applied science department, and holds an honorary professorship with the University of Hong Kong. An internationally recognized expert in the field of matrix theory, Li received his permanent, endowed professorship at William and Mary in the year 2000 after only 12 years at the university; his meteoric rise from assistant to chaired professor is the fastest in the college’s modern history. In 2003, Li received the university-wide Phi Beta Kappa Award for Outstanding Teaching. Li averages more than 10 publications in refereed journals annually, totaling over 180 articles, as well as two monographs, thus far in his career. Li’s grant awards at W&M have totaled over $500,000; he has received four grants from the National Science Foundation - two as sole researcher and two as a co-researcher - two NATO grants with Portuguese scholars, and a NATO Visiting Scholar grant. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Toronto.

JOHN S. O’CONNOR, Ph.D. - George Mason University

John S. O’Connor is an associate professor of English and interdisciplinary studies at George Mason University (GMU). Having held 11 different positions at GMU during his 29 years of service at the university, O’Connor is still achieving excellence in his career. Just last year, he was recognized with the David King GMU Teaching Award; he also received the GMU Distinguished Faculty Award in 1995. In addition to his service to the English department, Dr. O’Connor has served as an affiliated faculty member in cultural studies, as associate director of the Institute for the Federal Theater Project and New Deal Culture, as director of the English department’s composition program (twice) and “Composition with Computers” program, as co-director of GMU’s Instructional Development Office and its Zero-Based Curriculum, as director of the Johnson (University) Center, as vice provost for information technology and services, and as founding dean of New Century College (an innovative, interdisciplinary and integrative degree program initiated a decade ago in response to calls within the Commonwealth for a “university of the 21st century”). In 2000, O’Connor was recognized for his ongoing role in shaping both institutional and national conversations on teaching and learning by being named a Senior Scholar for the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE).

JAMES C. SQUIRE, Ph.D. - Virginia Military Institute

James C. Squire, this year’s ‘Rising Star’ designee, is an assistant professor of electrical & computer engineering at the Virginia Military Institute. In only three years of service at VMI, Squire has received the Hinman Research Award (2002) for outstanding achievement in research supervision of undergraduates, the Faculty Mentor Award (2002) for outstanding mentorship to the Corps of Cadets, and the Distinguished Teaching Award (2003) in recognition of excellence in teaching at VMI. A U.S. Army veteran, Squire was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Operation Desert Storm (fewer than 1% of his peers in his major command received this award), and, upon his return to United States, he served as a math and science teacher in an inner-city private school while his wife completed her teacher certification. Squire believes that a reciprocal duty exists between schools and their communities, and he exemplifies this relationship via his service as a science-fair judge for local grammar, middle, and high schools. To encourage others to use and serve community resources and needs, he coauthored a paper entitled “The Role of the Community in Teaching Undergraduate Engineering Design” and was selected to present it as a talk at the 2001 annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Educators (ASEE).

GREGORY L. WEISS, Ph.D. - Roanoke College

Gregory L. Weiss is a professor of sociology at Roanoke College. During his 28 years of service to the college, Weiss has received the Best Professor Award from the Circle K student organization (1979), as well as the college’s Outstanding Professor Award (1985), the Dean’s Council Exemplary Teaching Award (1996), and Roanoke College’s Professional Achievement Award (2003). He is the only faculty member at Roanoke to ever receive both of the latter two awards. During his tenure at Roanoke, Weiss has served as chair of the sociology department (twice), director of the Center for Community Research, coordinator of academic assessment, and director of assessment. During this same period, Weiss also received the Outstanding Service Award from the Free Health Clinic of the Roanoke Valley (1981) and the Scholar Award in Sociology from the Virginia Social Science Association (1982), an organization for which he has also served as president and vice president. In 1990, Weiss was invited to serve as a visiting researcher in Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics.

CHARLES E. WILSON Jr., Ph.D. - Old Dominion University

Charles E. Wilson Jr. is an associate professor in and chair of the English department at Old Dominion University (ODU). A scholar of American and southern literature, Wilson received the Robert L. Stern Award for Excellence in Teaching from ODU’s College of Arts and Letters in 1998. In 2000, he received the university’s A. Rufus Tonelson Award for Teaching, Research and Service, and in 2001, he was named a University Professor for his outstanding teaching. Prior to serving as English chair, Wilson served as director of ODU’s graduate program in English, And immediately prior to joining ODU’s faculty, he received an Outstanding University Professor award for his work at Christopher Newport University.

SCHEV is the Commonwealth’s coordinating body for Virginia’s system of higher education. The agency provides policy guidance and budget recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly, and is a resource for information on Virginia colleges and universities on higher education issues. Agenda materials for the SCHEV meeting are available at

For more information, contact Kirsten Nelson, Director of Government Relations and Communications, at or (804)225-2627.