Physicist John Brandenberg was honored as the first recipient of Lawrence University’s new Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity Award Sunday, June 11 at the college’s 157th commencement. Brandenberger was one of three faculty members recognized during graduation ceremonies.
Karen Carr, professor of religious studies, was presented Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, given annually for outstanding performance in the teaching process, including the quest to ensure students reach their full development as individuals, human beings and future leaders of society.
Faith Barrett, assistant professor of English, received the Young Teacher Award in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the classroom and the promise of continued growth.
The new Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity Award recognizes professional accomplishment in scholarship or creative activity. The award is intended to symbolize the importance of excellence in scholarly and creative work for advancing the mission of Lawrence University, with preference given to those who have demonstrated sustained programs of excellent work for a number of years and whose work exemplifies the ideals of the teacher-scholar.
Brandenberger, the Alice G. Chapman Professor of Physics and a member of the Lawrence faculty since 1968, previously was recognized in 1995 with the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
A specialist in laser spectroscopy and time-resolved flourescence spectroscopy, Brandenberger has played a leading role in earning national recognition for Lawrence’s physics department as one of the country’s best undergraduate programs. His research on atomic structure has been supported by grants from the Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, NASA, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the General Electric Foundation and the Keck Foundation. In 1999, Brandenberger became the first physicist in Lawrence history to be elected a Fellow in the American Physical Society for his contributions to physics education in America.
In presenting him with the inaugural new award, Lawrence President Jill Beck cited the “imagination and energy” Brandenberger brings to the classroom and the laboratory.
“For generations of Lawrence students, you have provided a model for the conduct of scientific investigation in the context of a liberal education,” said Beck. “Your success as a scholar has shown in dramatic fashion that high quality research can be done at an undergraduate institution and can serve as an important part of students’ education. Your creative, intelligent and forceful advocacy for scholarly work is truly remarkable.”
A native of Danville, Ill., Brandenberger is a graduate of Carleton College, which honored him with its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2001. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics at Brown University.
Carr, who joined the faculty in 1987, becomes just the seventh person to be recognized with both the Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Young Teacher Award in the 32-year history of the awards.
A scholar on the history of Christianity and 19th- and 20th-century religious thought, Carr is the author of two books, “The Banaliization of Nihilism” and “The Sense of Anti Rationalism: The Religious Thought of Zhuangzi and Kierkegaard,” a comparative study of religious epistemology.
“Your success at teaching students the nature of early Christianity and the complexities of such thinkers as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard made it clear that you have a special ability to take the most difficult ideas and make them come alive, without ever oversimplifying them,” Beck said in presenting Carr her award. “If the mark of a good liberal education is being able to use knowledge to understand what is vital for the human experience, you have clearly been successful with your students.”
Carr, who grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., earned her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in religious studies at Stanford University.
Barrett joined the English department in 2003. A specialist in 19th-century American literature, much of Barrett’s scholarly research has centered around poetry of the Civil War era. She served as co-editor of “Words for the Hour,” a 2005 anthology of American Civil War poetry. She also has two books in progress, “‘To fight aloud is very brave”: American Poets and the Civil War,” which examines works of both popular poets as well as unpublished poems written by soldiers, and “Letters to the World: Emily Dickinson and the Lyric Address.”
Beck credited Barrett for “creating a sense of excitement” about poetry and literature in her classes.
“Students praise your ability to challenge them and to help them reach new levels of accomplishment in both writing and critical analysis,” said Beck. “It is clear that a great deal of your success comes from your individualized learning style that is based on a high level of rich interactions with students. Your teaching has established a balance between attempting to cover a set of important points and allowing students to take responsibility for their own learning.”
Originally from Hartford, Conn., Barrett earned her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Swarthmore College and holds a MFA degree in poetry from the University of Iowa. She also earned a master’s degree and her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley.