Levitt Teacher Award Recipient Information

1994 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Barbara Hodgdon, Professor of English

Although she received her undergraduate degree in zoology, Hodgon's true passions are for gibes, gambols, and songs, as befitting a Shakespearean scholar. Her work in the classroom has been described as, "a perfect blending of teaching and scholarship." Before she retired in 2000, she was highly involved outside the classroom, even creating and establishing the Honors Program. As one nominator stated, "While her manner reveals the flair one would expect of someone with a background as an actor, it also shows the warmth one looks for in a good friend."

1995 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Alexander Kleiner, Thomas F. Sheehan Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Although himself taken by the "inner truth and beauty" of calculus, as a professor in tune with his students, Dr. Kleiner realizes the need to present mathematics as a practical tool.  As a former student noted, he, "Taught not only mathematics, but an entire way of thinking." Beyond the classroom, he remains dedicated to his students and is, "Looked upon as a father figure by many of his advisees and students in the department." 

1996 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Robert Hunter, Professor of Law

Specializing in Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction, and Education Law, Hunter is known for his outstanding teaching, having won the Drake Law School Outstanding Teacher Award on seven different occasions. "I try to impart a reality and enthusiasm in the classroom. Teaching current law is a small part of my job. More important is teaching what the law should be, what it might be, and how to represent a client's interests in an unknown future."

1997 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
James Reynolds, Professor of Pharmacology

Although students have heard time and time again- "There is no such thing as a stupid question," Reynold's students knew that he actually meant it. "He expresses a genuine interest that is a bright spot in my day," said one student nominator. His involvement in the university stretched beyond teaching, serving as both department chair and interim dean before accepting a position as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska in July 2003. 

1998 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Nancy Reincke, Associate Professor of English/Interim Director of Women's Studies

A dedicated professor specializing in twentieth-century American literatures, postcolonial literatures, feminist studies, and gay and lesbian studies, according to one student, "She does more homework than the students for class." Her dedication to the classroom has also earned her recognition as Arts and Science Teacher of the Year. In the words of another student, "I will never forget her incredible sense of humor, her comfortable and challenging classrooms, her open-door policy, and her unmatched dedication." 

1999 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Patricia Prijatel, E.T. Meredith Distinguished Professor of Journalism

Patricia Prijatel is credited for more than quadrupling Drake's magazine sequence and developing it into one of the premier undergraduate magazine programs in the country. For this and her many other accomplishments, she has received the alumni achievement awards from both the University of Southern Colorado, where she earned her B.A, and Drake University, where she earned her M.A. However, she is much more than an administrator- she is also a passionate teacher. In 1990, she won Drake's Burlington-Northern Award for teaching excellence. "She sees herself as an instrument of learning and makes her classes collaborations between her and her students."

2000 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Daniel Spencer, Associate Professor of Religion and Ethics

An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (Congregational) and an avid fan of the outdoors, Spencer combines both of his passions in his teachings, with classes such as Ecological Ethics and Earth Community, Earth Ethics: Religion, Nature, and the Environment. In addition to his other coursework encompassing issues of gender and sexuality in theology, and liberation theologies and social change, he routinely takes students on retreats and leads travel seminars to Latin America.

2001 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Donald Stratton, Ellis and Nelle Levitt Professor Physiology and Professor of Biology

An accomplished scholar who delivered Drake University's 1993 Stalnaker Lecture and recipient of a total of eight awards from Drake, to students Dr. Stratton is much more than an intellectual. "He explains difficult concepts in a short amount of time. I am constantly amazed how he can do this, as not many professors can ... He is confident but not cocky. You do not feel like an idiot asking him to explain something. Finally, he brings enthusiasm to the classroom. He's not above literally hopping around, imitating various molecules and/or ions to get a concept across." 

2002 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Jody Swilky, Professor of English

Teaching courses in language theory, writing, and cultural history, and criticism, Swilky offers students the chance to write in a variety of styles. He is currently on sabbatical to develop his research on writing studies and educational reform and write poetry. One of his former students wrote, "[He] had a talent for facilitating discussion that always led to productive, insightful and even fun dialogue. I looked forward to going to class and learning with an intensity and hunger I had not previously known."

2003 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Mark Vitha, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Having spent a good deal of time in Minnesota, receiving both his B.A and Ph.D. in the state, and then teaching at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Vitha joined Drake's staff in 1998. A student wrote, "Sometimes I see how much Dr. Vitha undertakes...and am completely amazed...Then if I take a closer look and notice how much he enjoys everything that he does, I realize why the juggling is so easy for him. He wants to be a great teacher; he wants students to learn; he wants to do excellent research; and he wants to learn himself."

2004 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Frederick Adam, Ellis and Nelle Levitt Professor of History

Adams joined the Drake faculty in 1969 as an assistant professor of history. In a nomination letter, a former student said Adams is "a teacher of unparalleled excellence, at once a brilliant, mesmerizing lecturer and an inspired seminar leader. He maintained the highest academic standards, yet his broad sympathies, commitment, and passion earned him the respect of a range of students running from junior-year Phi Beta Kappa's to those with modest academic records and relatively limited academic ability." Indeed, he is one of those exceptionally rare teachers who is consistently popular despite a reputation for being a tough grader. 

2005 Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year:
Steven Faux, Associate Professor of Psychology

Faux joined Drake in 1990 after five years at Harvard Medical School where he worked on a variety of brain-function research. At Drake, Faux teaches psychology at all levels from the most advanced courses to the beginning course taken by many first-year students for science requirements. "Fifty years from now, if my students still think of me, they probably will not recall my lectures or teaching activities," he said. "However, I do hope they remember my enthusiasm for the pursuit of learning and intellect. If I have made that enthusiasm memorable and contagious, I have succeeded as a teacher. I could have no greater reward than that."

University News
October 23, 2014
"everyday abstraction: contemporary abstract painting" is on view November 7 through January 23 in the Anderson Gallery.
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