Some of Memorial University’s best educators, researchers and staff members were honoured at a special ceremony today at the Fluvarium in St. John’s.
The inaugural President’s Award for Exceptional Community Service was also introduced at this annual ceremony. Dr. Joan Oldford, Education, was named winner of the new award that recognizes the commitment of Memorial’s employees to helping build stronger communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Memorial University's mission encompasses service to the community and I am proud that the university has a very strong record of supporting communities throughout this province," said Memorial President Dr. Axel Meisen. “This new award recognizes faculty and staff who have made outstanding contributions to an important aspect of our mission.”
Eleven Memorial employees were honoured at the reception – one for exceptional community service, three for outstanding research, two for distinguished teaching and five for exemplary service. Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Education, was the recipient of the President’s Award for Research, while Dr. Richard Rivkin, Ocean Sciences Centre, and Dr. Barbara Neis, Sociology, each received the distinction of University Research Professor.
The President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching went to Dr. Christopher Sharpe, Geography, and Dr. Katherine Gallagher, Business Administration.
The five Memorial staff members who received the President’s Awards for Exemplary Service were: Greg Bennett, Computing and Communications; Linda Kirby, School of Medicine; Zita Murphy, Memorial University Bookstore; Sonja Knutson, International Student Advising Centre; and Gary Collins, Department of Biology.
Memorial began its annual presentation of the University Research Professor designations and the Awards for Outstanding Research in 1984, and the Distinguished Teaching Awards in 1988, as ways of singling out particularly distinguished contributions within its academic community. Exemplary Service Awards were introduced in 1995.
“Each award category underlines Memorial's mission of innovation and excellence in teaching and learning, research and scholarship and service to the community,” said Dr. Meisen. “Together our distinguished faculty and staff help build a local, national and international reputation for Memorial.”
President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching recognize the teaching excellence in the university community. Each winner of the teaching award receives a $5,000 grant contributed by the Memorial University Alumni Association. The President’s Award for Outstanding Research recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to their scholarly disciplines. Each award includes a $5,000 research grant. University Research Professors have acquired a designation above the rank of professor. The title is the most prestigious award the university gives for research, and goes to faculty who have demonstrated a consistently high level of scholarship and whose research is of a truly international stature. The designation carries with it a $4,000 research grant (each year for five years) and a reduced teaching schedule. The President’s Award for Exceptional Community Service carries a $1,000 award.
Biographical notes on award recipients
President’s Award for Exemplary Community Service
Dr. Joan Oldford received her BA in religious studies from Memorial University in 1972, followed by a B.Ed. in religious education that same year. She obtained her MA in Language Arts Education in 1975, and her PhD in Psycholinguistics from Ohio State University in 1985. She started at Memorial as an assistant professor in 1983, became an associate professor in 1989 and in 2000 was named professor. Early in her career she recognized the need for literacy education in rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and developed a ground-breaking project that is still in use today.
She launched The Significant Others as Reading Teachers (SORT) project in 1991 to improve the pre-reading and reading skills of young children on the Burin Peninsula. Dr. Oldford introduced reading materials in communities with no access to them; showed parents ways of reading with their children, and in many cases helped parents learn to read. The result of her efforts was significant improvement in children’s pre-reading and reading skills. The SORT project continues to thrive as a self-sustaining movement in the community.
President’s Award for Outstanding Research
Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Education
Dr. Elizabeth Murphy has a BA from the Université Laval and a B.Ed from Memorial University. She returned to Laval to complete her MA and graduated from Memorial with a M.Ed. in 1992. She received her PhD from Laval in 2000. Dr. Murphy taught in the St. John’s school system and served as an assistant principal and principal before joining the Faculty of Education in 2000. In just six years here, she has published 26 peer-refereed papers, two book chapters, four conference proceedings, eight non-refereed papers, and 12 newspaper columns about how technology affects education and society. The impact of her work goes beyond publications and presentations. With expertise in the use of broadband for teaching and learning, Dr. Murphy headed up the evaluation of the Telesat Satellite Multimedia trials for schools in this province for the Canadian Education Association. Her research focuses on technology-mediated learning.
University Research Professors
Dr. Richard Rivkin, Ocean Sciences Centre
Dr. Richard Rivkin earned a B.Sc. in biology and a M.Sc. in oceanography from the City College of New York before earning a PhD in biological sciences from the University of Rhode Island. After holding positions at John Hopkins University, University of Maryland and Laval University, Dr. Rivkin arrived at Memorial’s Ocean Sciences Centre as an associate professor in 1991. In 1998 he was appointed professor. At Memorial, Dr. Rivkin has established internationally-recognized research programs studying microbial food web dynamics. Along with compiling a lengthy list of publications, he has served as editorial advisor of the Marine Ecology Progress Series and Aquatic Microbial Biology journals. To achieve his research goals, Dr. Rivkin has led field teams on eight large-scale research expeditions to the Antarctic and on ship-based missions in the North Atlantic, the Sargasso Sea and the Caribbean.
Dr. Barbara Neis, Sociology
Dr. Barbara Neis received her BA (Honours) from Glendon College of York University in 1975, graduated from Memorial University with her MA in 1980 and earned a PhD from the University of Toronto in 1988. She started lecturing at Memorial in 1979, became an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology in 1988 and was named professor in 2001. The fishery and the future of outport communities are important topics for Dr. Neis, who is also co-director of SafetyNet, A Community Research Alliance on Health and Safety in Marine and Coastal Workplaces. Her past research has helped foster prevention in areas like fishing vessel injuries and asthma in snow crab processors. Currently she is spearheading research to help devise and implement recovery strategies for both fish stocks and fishing communities. Dr. Neis has been recognized by her peers for her research activities. She received a President’s Award for Outstanding Research from Memorial University in 1998 and the Atlantic Centre of Excellence in Women’s Health Leadership Award in 2002. In 2006, she won a prestigious Trudeau Foundation Fellowship, valued at $225,000 over three years.
Greg Bennett grew up on the west coast of Newfoundland and graduated from Acadia University in Wolfville, NS, in 1975 with a B.Sc. in Computer Science. He came to Memorial in 1982 and has worked in the Department of Computing and Communications ever since. He’s currently a systems analyst and provides IT support to a range of departments including Alumni Affairs & Development, Facilities Management, Student Affairs, Student Housing and Printing Services. Mr. Bennett has such a wealth of knowledge and experience, he is affectionately known to his colleagues as The Oracle on the Hill. Co-incidentally one of his many duties in the Department of Computing and Communications is acting as Oracle database administrator from time-to-time. Well-respected and frequently sought after for his expertise and ability to solve any kind of IT problem, Mr. Bennett is held in high esteem.
Since coming to Memorial University over 30 years ago, in 1976, Linda Kirby has worked in administration for several departments, including Alumni Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, the Marine Institute and the departments of Physics and Folklore. But she really found her niche in 1988 when she accepted a position at Memorial’s School of Medicine, in the Discipline of Family Medicine. As program coordinator of the Family Medicine Residency Program, Ms. Kirby was keenly interested in raising the profile of family medicine as a career choice. She helped develop and implement innovative ways to promote family medicine at Memorial to medical students in this province and elsewhere. With a special emphasis on rural and remote medicine, Memorial’s program is now recognized by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada as one of the best in the country for training in family medicine. It’s recognition that means a great deal to Ms. Kirby, who is now the national coordinator of family medicine programs across the country.
Zita Murphy has worked at Memorial University Bookstore since 1978, where she’s been the text buyer for more than 29 years. In this important role she is responsible for the ordering of all course text materials for faculty and students. She is in regular contact with national and international publishers, campus departments, faculty and students. Her outstanding customer service skills are crucial to the day-to-day operations of the bookstore, and her natural leadership ability has earned her praise from all corners of the university. Ms. Murphy supervises staff in the Text Department and has a sense of commitment to Memorial that extends far beyond the scope of her job. She has mentored many students who work part-time at the bookstore and is recognized by her peers as a most sincere, caring and compassionate person and humanitarian.
Sonja Knutson has a passion for working with international students, which she’s done since 1992 when she began volunteering with immigrants and refugees in St. John’s. She has a B.Ed in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) from Concordia and a Masters in Post-Secondary Education from Memorial University. She started her career at Memorial in 1999, teaching in the ESL Program and then taking over as Manager of International Student Advising in 2001. Her knowledge of other cultures and world events makes her an instant favourite among students and an important resource for her staff. Ms. Knutson teaches evening classes with the English Department and the Faculty of Education and since 2003 has been president of TESL-NL.
Gary Collins came to work at Memorial just over 30 years ago, starting out as a science technician in the Department of Biology in 1977. He has remained in that department over the years, and is now a laboratory supervisor. Though taking on new titles and new responsibilities as he progressed in his career, Mr. Collins was never one to leave things behind. Dedicated and conscientious, he merged old skills and job duties with the new, always turning his job into something more. Mr. Collins says working with great people here at Memorial, not only in Biology but across the university in areas such as Facilities Management and Technical Services, has kept him on the job for over 30 years.