The Wake Forest community commemorated 181 years since the University’s founding at Founders’ Day Convocation in Wait Chapel on Feb. 19.
The celebration recognizes student leaders and honors faculty for teaching, research and service.
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Each year, three students are selected to deliver an oration on Founders’ Day that addresses how they have changed during their four years at Wake Forest.
The winners of the 2015 Senior Orations Competition are:
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The University’s highest honor, the Medallion of Merit, is presented to someone who has rendered distinguished service to the University, including past presidents, trustees, benefactors, alumni, and retired faculty and administrators. This year it was awarded to two members of the Wake Forest community, Dr. Louis Argenta and Dr. Michael Morykwas for their outstanding achievements in the medical field.
Argenta is a professor of surgery in the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which he established in 1988, and served as the Distinguished Howell Professor and Chairman for 20 years. Morykwas is the Director of Research for the department, which he developed from a one technician, 179 square foot laboratory to its current 8,500 square feet, 25 member facility. The department’s research laboratory is one of the pre-eminent laboratories in the field of plastic surgery.
Argenta and Morykwas led the way for surgical advancement with the development of vacuum assisted closure, a procedure for treating difficult wounds and burns that is hailed as the most important advance in wound healing in the past 25 years. The technique has been used on over ten million people worldwide and is estimated to have prevented a million amputations. Used by the U.S. Military on almost all battlefield injuries in the Iraqi and Afghanistan war, it has dramatically reduced wound infection and complications. It has become one of the largest and most successful research laboratories in the country with over a hundred national and international patents.
“Men and women who receive this honor have made exceptional and significant contributions to the life of Wake Forest and have helped shape the university’s direction,” said President Nathan Hatch. “Today we honor two individuals committed to honoring our tradition of pro humanitate.”
URECA Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship in Research and Creative Work
Associate chair of anthropology Steven Folmar received the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities URECA Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship in Research and Creative Work, which recognizes faculty members who engage Wake Forest undergraduates outside the classroom and inspire, guide, and support the students’ intellectual and creative endeavors. Since joining the faculty in 1992, Folmar has mentored 10 Richter Fellowships, three Summer Fellowships, 2 ACC-IAC fellowships, and 14 Honors theses. A former student who traveled to Nepal with Dr. Folmar as part of his Summer Program in Nepal said, “My relationship with Dr. Folmar began when I was a wide-eyed freshman who wanted to see the Himalayan Mountains. That summer I traveled to Nepal with Dr. Folmar to complete my Richter research project. He took us to live with some of the poorest people in Nepal, not only teaching us anthropology, but also exposing us to the realities that we would not be able to understand in a classroom or by reading a book.”
Associate professor of philosophy Ana Iltis also received the URECA Faculty Award. In addition to teaching, she serves as the Director of the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society. One senior, who first met Professor Iltis as a first-year student, said, “I have grown as a researcher, writer, and student. The horizons of my education have been expanded and my boundaries of study stretched. None of this would have been possible without Dr. Iltis’s mentorship. Her unique outlook on the topics she teaches combined with her willingness to assist and encourage have afforded me opportunities I otherwise would have never had.”
Award for Excellence in Research
This year two recipients were chosen for the Award for Excellence in Research, presented to an outstanding scholar at an early stage in his or her career.
Associate professor of mathematics Jennifer Erway has been prolific in publishing papers and producing grant proposals leading to funding, and has had continuous NSF funding since 2009. Her first two publications upon joining the Wake Forest faculty appeared in the best journal in her field, SIAM Journal on Optimization. Her 2010 manuscript (co-authored with a Wake Forest graduate student) won the award for “Best Paper” at the International Conference of Applied Engineering and Mathematics in London. Last year she won the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Mathematics department chair Ed Allen referred to her as “an extraordinarily strong teacher scholar.”
Assistant professor of physics Oana Jurchescu has been awarded over $2.5 million in external grant funding for her research work in organic electronics. 22 of her 44 peer-reviewed publications have Wake Forest students as co-authors. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious NSF CAREER Award, which funds the early stages of the careers of the nation’s most promising junior faculty in STEM areas. Physics department chair Keith Bonin said, “Dr. Jurchescu is the gold standard of the Wake Forest University Teacher-Scholar, with an exceptional research track record that truly deserves recognition.”
Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service
Professor of communication, film studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Mary Dalton has served as a faculty member for 29 years and is in the inaugural class of Faculty Fellows. She has served as president of the North Carolina Women’s Political Caucus and media coordinator for North Carolina and helped found Lillian’s List, a committee dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to the North Carolina General Assembly. She has also made films to document civil rights and raise equity issues related to the LGBTQ community.
Jon Reinhardt Award for Distinguished Teaching
Professor of English and Associate Dean for Student-Faculty Academic Initiatives Anne Boyle received the Jon Reinhardt Award for Distinguished Teaching, which recognizes an experienced faculty member who exemplifies the ideals of a liberal arts education. She is prized for introducing students to a truly humanistic approach to life. Students regularly cite her unwavering commitment to demanding that they engage complicated themes and subject matter that touch on their most personal and deeply held beliefs. One student said, “I was confident this course would make me a better writer. What I did not realize was that it would cause me to dig deep into my personal beliefs and suppositions, and to hone my relationship to the world.”
Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award
Professor Susan Grebeldinger was awarded the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award, which is presented to a member of the School of Law who exemplifies teaching and service to the legal profession. A member of the School of Law faculty since 1991, Grebeldinger holds herself and her students to high expectations in writing, speaking, thinking, and personal integrity. One student said, “It is clear that she sincerely cares for her students and we are the beneficiaries of that care. I feel like we are walking away from this class with a great foundation.”
Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award
Associate professor of biology and director of the Health Professions Program Pat Lord received the Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award, which recognizes an outstanding faculty member who bridges the gap between classroom and student life. In addition to teaching multiple classes including genetics and virology, she serves as the single pre-medical advisor for hundreds of pre-medical students. Lord bridges the gap between faculty and students by providing valuable pre-medical advice and opportunities to pre-health students. Her holistic interest in her students makes Dr. Lord an exceptional faculty member and an integral member of the Wake Forest community.
Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching
Associate professor of physics Timo Thonhauser received the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is awarded to outstanding faculty members who are still in the early part of their careers. Thonhauser is an expert in his field who epitomizes the teacher-scholar model we prize at Wake Forest. Students often comment that he is one of the “most supportive and encouraging” of their professors, who will spend “any amount of time required to make sure we understand the material.” He also spends time seeking funding for integrating teaching and research and to support student travel to conferences and workshops.