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Senior Mary Kate Smith Awarded Fulbright Fellowship to Germany

It seems at a young age Mary Kate Smith already was destined to be a teacher. Volunteering as a fourth grader on weekends to help her teacher with a class for pre-kindergarten students, it was clear what path her career would follow.

Sixteen years later, Smith’s passion for teaching burns as bright as ever. She soon will put her passion into practice in Germany as the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholarship. Beginning in August, Smith will spend the 2013-14 academic year as a teaching assistant at either a German middle or high school in a city still to be determined.

Mary Kate Smith ’13

Smith is the second Lawrence student this spring to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and 16th since 2008.

“Teaching has been my main focus for as long as I can remember,” said Smith, a senior double degree candidate with majors in German, instrumental music education and violin performance from Charlottesville, Va.  “I’ve always thought about teaching math or German or music. I’ve just always wanted to teach.”

She completed her student-teaching certification last fall in the Whitefish Bay school district, teaching orchestra at both the high school and middle school level. She also spent four years teaching in the Lawrence Academy of Music’s String Project and gives private violin lessons.

“I’ve had lots of tutoring job as well,” said Smith, who first began learning German as a five-year old from an au pair from Germany who lived with her family for a year. Six years at a Waldorf School, where basic German was part of the curriculum, further exposed her to the language.

Her Fulbright Scholarship will take her to Germany for the fourth time. She first visited in 2007, spending a year in Berlin after graduating from high school as a participant in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. She returned in 2010 as part of Lawrence’s “Berlin: Experiencing a Great City” course and spent the fall of 2011 on the IES Berlin off-campus study program.

Quintessential Lawrence student

“As a German, violin performance and music education triple major, Mary Kate is the quintessential Lawrence student,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German and Smith’s academic advisor. “Her love of German culture, particularly those parts of it connected to Berlin, has made her an enthusiastic German student, aided by her spectacular language abilities and her exceptional skills as a reader of literary and other cultural texts. She is a great credit to Lawrence and will be a terrific representative of American culture in the tradition of the Fulbright awards.”

Smith says her current “rough plan” is to get a few years of classroom experience before going to graduate school with the ultimate goal of teaching at the university level.

“One of the challenges I’m facing is deciding if I want to set up life here or in Germany,” said Smith, a five-year member of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of Lawrence’s student chapter of the American String Teachers Association.

“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to receive a Fulbright Scholarship,” Smith added. “I’m excited about this incredible opportunity to learn and grow and I’ll do my best to live up to the what the Fulbright represents.”

The flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Retiring Faculty Becker, Blackwell and Ternes Honored at June 10 Lawrence University Commencement

David Becker’s “fans” said their goodbye May 26 by way of an extended standing ovation after Lawrence University’s director of orchestral studies conducted the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra in concert for the final time.

The college says its farewell to the talented maestro Sunday, June 10 at its 163rd commencement in the form of an honorary degree.

Becker, along with Associate Professor of Chemistry Mary Blackwell and Professor of German Hans Ternes — and their collective 78 years of teaching experience — will be recognized as retiring faculty with professor emeritus status and presented honorary master of arts degrees, ad eundem, as part of the graduation ceremonies that begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Main Hall green. Blackwell and Ternes will be honored in absentia.

Director of Orchestral Studies David Becker

Becker spent 11 years conducting the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra in two separate stints — early in his career (1976-80) and late, returning in 2005 after 21 years as director of orchestras and professor of the graduate orchestral conducting program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He credits distinguished faculty colleagues, outstanding students and a supportive administration for luring him back to Lawrence.

“I believe in the quality and integrity of this institution and I sincerely have been proud to be part of it for a second time around,” said Becker, who was recognized with Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at the college’s 2010 commencement.

Like all exceptional teachers, Becker left a profound imprint on his students.

“Professor Becker has been the core of my Lawrence experience for the past five years,” said graduating senior Louis Steptoe, a violinist in the orchestra. “I have known him to be a man of surpassing integrity, respect, empathy and a true and tireless servant of the orchestra. Over the years I have seen his teaching continue to adapt, yet his commitment to his students and their professional education has never wavered.”

A “gift to Lawrence”

Fred Sturm ’73, director of jazz studies, hailed Becker as “a rare combination of true gentleman, loyal friend, committed colleague, inspirational mentor and world class musician.”

“The performances and projects I’ve shared with him stand among my most cherished Lawrence memories,” said Sturm. “Dave’s a giant — in both physical stature and artistry — and he’s been a great gift to Lawrence.”

Fellow conductor Andy Mast, who directs the Lawrence Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, said Becker’s “professional excellence, pedagogical mastery and personal graciousness have made Lawrence University a better place to teach and make music.”

While he may be retiring from Lawrence, his baton won’t be collecting dust anytime soon. His immediate future includes a bevy of guest conducting gigs, among them the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the NAfME All-National Honors Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the University of Wisconsin music clinic honors orchestra, as well as all-state honors orchestras in South Carolina and New York.

A ChemLinks Coalition Pioneer

Associate Professor of Chemistry Mary Blackwell

Blackwell came to Lawrence in 1989 with a strong background in physical and biophysical chemistry, having previously worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the University of Illinois and as U.S. National Institutes of Health Fellow at London’s Imperial College.

One of the immediate impacts upon her arrival was a significant step up in research activity, supported in part by several grants she received for important new instruments.

“Mary provided productive research opportunities for a number of our best students, several of whom have gone on to productive careers of their own,” said professor emeritus of chemistry Jerrold Lokensgard, a colleague of Blackwell’s her entire Lawrence career. “Over the years, Mary has contributed in important ways to the development of the chemistry curriculum, especially in our introductory courses and in physical chemistry. In at least half her years here, she has taught the course through which our best-prepared students have entered the chemistry curriculum.”

Blackwell was an original member of the ChemLinks Coalition team, a $2.7 million multi-institutional initiative funded by the National Science Foundation. The program sought to revolutionize the teaching of chemistry by creating modules that featured student-centered active and collaborative classroom activities and inquiry-based laboratory and media projects, rather than traditional lectures.

Her impact extended beyond the chemistry department through her involvement in the development of one of Lawrence’s earliest environmental studies courses and most recently, she developed and introduced a very well-received introductory course focused on chemistry and art.

She was recognized with Lawrence’s Freshman Studies Teaching Award for 2000-01, which cited her for “the excitement, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity” she brings to the course.

Weaving Language with Music

Ternes, who traces his roots to a family of refugees from a German-speaking enclave in Romania, taught German at Lawrence for 44 years. His scholarly interests extended to languages other than German, including Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as the literature and culture of the ethnic German communities that were under stress in the post-World War II era, leading to a course entitled “The History of the Romance Languages.”

Professor of German Hans Ternes

He also was involved with the Lawrence men’s soccer program for several years, serving as the team’s head coach for four seasons in the mid-1980s and guiding the Vikings to their first Midwest Conference championship in 1985.

“What I treasure most of all was the freedom and the opportunity Lawrence offered me to explore some of my interests and talents,” said Ternes.

He says he takes particular pride in his work and cooperation with music majors who also happened to be German majors.

“I guided many honors and senior projects on topics relating to German literature and music and had the pleasure to perform some popular music pieces with voice and instrument majors,” said Ternes, who organized a number of Liederabend (Evening of Song) during his tenure.  “I’m also proud of our majors who have become teachers and professors of German themselves.”

Long-time department colleague Dorrit Friedlander, professor emerita of German, said Ternes “was particularly well suited for Lawrence because of his enthusiasm for German and music. He was well known for weaving the two disciplines together.”

Denise Haight of Oconomowoc, a 1970 Lawrence graduate, remembers Ternes as “cerebral, proficient and passionate about his area of expertise.”

“He struck fear in the heart of this student in that he demanded unwavering dedication and scholarship,” said Haight. “However, he was consistently nurturing of his students’ abilities.”

One of Ternes’ most popular courses, as well as a personal favorite, was his “Comparative Fairy Tales” class, which was invariably oversubscribed to by students.

“I think I succeeded in turning many Lawrence students into enthusiastic story tellers,” said Ternes. “Judging from the reactions of students, this course has had the most lasting influence upon them.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges by Forbes, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries. Follow us on Facebook.