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From left, Bobby K. Marks, SHSU president, congratulates this year's winners of the Faculty Excellence Awards: Gan Liang, Excellence in Research; Marie Hayden, Excellence in Service; and David Burris, Excellence in Teaching.

Outstanding Professors
Honored for Excellence

The word "thoughtful" describes most who teach at the college level, but seems especially appropriate for the recipients of the 2000 Sam Houston State University Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Research, and Excellence in Service awards.

Thoughtful describes how Excellence in Teaching winner David Burris keeps ahead of the technology curve in computer science, a field in which textbooks become outdated even before they are published.

Thoughtful is the way Excellence in Research winner Gan Liang relates his superconductivity research to everyday use.

Thoughtful is how Excellence in Service winner Marie Hayden works to create a better learning environment for faculty, staff and students.

Each will be recognized at spring commencement exercises May 6, presented plaques, and monetary awards of $1,400 for Excellence in Teaching, $1,200 for Excellence in Research, and $1,000 for Excellence in Service.

Teaching Excellence

david burris David Burris, coordinator of the computer science program, has been on the SHSU faculty since 1978, after earning his doctorate in 1976 at Texas A&M University. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1969 and master's in 1972 from Southwest Texas State.

Before going into university teaching, he worked as a physicist/electrical engineer, and became interested in computers when his company offered him use of their first computer.

"The only problem was, I had to program it myself," he said.

Since becoming a college teacher, Burris has continued to keep up with the latest computer applications while working as a consultant on projects with NASA, the White Sands Missile Range, on nuclear submarine navigation, mapping the earth's electromagnetic field, and applications in law enforcement, communications and business data processing.

In recent years his main interest has been in applying computers to education.

"Creative people in all fields utilize software in manners that far exceed the original bounds anticipated by the software's author," he said.

Jaimie Hebert, who chairs the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics, said that since the arrival of Burris on campus, with his background in industry applications and his continued work in the field, he has emphasized the practical.

"Dr. Burris always insisted on a program of study that reflected the needs of business and industry," said Hebert. "His efforts led to the establishment of a viable, challenging curriculum that is evident in the success rate for our students when seeking employment after graduation."

The students themselves appreciate the dedication and thoughtfulness with which Burris approaches his teaching duties, and the standards he demands from them.

"They talk about him as though he were a tyrant," said Hebert, "but smiling all the while. Students truly recognize that he has their best interest in mind and they recognize that by answering his challenge, they are opening doors of opportunity."

Here is what some of his students say about Burris.

"After an hour and a half of class I would get up feeling that we had covered so much material, yet I understood it all," said Kyle Patrick. "In all the classes and seminars I have had him for I have never seen him waste a minute in class."

"Dr. Burris has an exceptional rapport with his colleagues and especially us students," said Steven Frey. "He even went paintballing with the SHACS (Sam Houston Association of Computer Scientists) club and other Computer Services personnel just a few weeks ago."

"Dr. Burris is not limited to teaching yesterday's technology," said Samira Noman. "He regularly will take cutting edge concepts and new techniques that the science journals might be talking about this month and transcend that knowledge to his students today."

Noman, who now works for the university in computer services, said Burris often helps bring new technology into the computer services operation to benefit all students, faculty and staff.

Wendy Gilbert is another former student who also works in Computer Services.

"Dr. Burris doesn't just teach information straight from books," said Gilbert. "He guides students and trains them to teach themselves. He forces you to think, to analyze, to extend your limits in ways you'd never have thought you were capable of doing."

Excellence in Research

gian liangGan Liang, associate professor in the Department of Physics, earned his bachelor's degree in 1982 at Peking University, Beijing, China, and his doctorate in 1990 at Rutgers University. In 1990 he also began working on design and construction of superconducting magnets at the Houston Advanced Research Center in The Woodlands and began his teaching and research at SHSU.

The high regard with which his colleagues hold Liang and his research projects is evidenced by his selection for three consecutive Advanced Research Program/Advanced Technology Program Awards from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The program's oversight and policy guidelines are provided by a panel of distinguished scientists and engineers from Texas, and research proposals are solicited from all public and private institutions of higher education in the state. Less than 10 percent of all proposals are funded, and less than five percent of those funded are to scientists at institutions like SHSU which do not offer science Ph. D. programs.

"Dr. Liang's selection in three consecutive funding periods is particularly striking and may be unique," said Russell L. Palma, a physics colleague who was the Excellence in Research winner in 1993.

Liang's 1995-98 grant for $102,960 was to study how electrons scatter due to magnetic fields generated by atoms within materials. His 1997-2000 grant of $64,200 was for the development of a novel cable-in-conduit conductor suitable for use with the new generation of high temperature superconductors.

"The second grant represents one of the first practical attempts to bring the enormous potential of superconducting materials to everyday use," said Palma. "His latest 2000-2003 grant for $45,710 is with research scientists at the Texas Center for Superconductivity.

"In this project he will develop superconducting wires and thick tapes. The success of this project is likely to provide a major breakthrough in the industrial use of superconducting materials."

In addition to his grant success, Liang has numerous international publications and conference presentations. He oversees a large graduate and undergraduate research effort, supporting the students financially with external funds. He also serves as the graduate adviser in the Department of Physics, an important and time-consuming task.

Excellence in Service

marie hayden Marie Hayden, who has held a number of positions in the SHSU library since 1970, including professor of library science since 1991, earned her bachelor's degree in 1969 from SHSU, her master's from Louisiana State University in 1971, and her doctorate from Texas A&M University in 1979.

Some of Hayden's many activities have included service as chair of the Faculty Senate, on presidential and vice-presidential search committees, and working with the Texas Association of College Teachers as legislative liaison for the SHSU chapter, as its president twice, as state treasurer, and as regional vice president.

Working to coordinate the schedules of Texas legislators and government officials, Hayden arranged the visits to campus of Lieutenant Gov. Bill Hobby, Representatives Wilhelmina Delco, Carl Parker and Dan Ellis and State Senator Steve Ogden.

Hayden has been active in the Sam Houston Faculty Forum, in University Women, and the SHSU Alumni Association, which she serves as secretary and chair of the Association's activities for Homecoming 2000. She has also been active in other community groups including the Huntsville Study Club and Community Theater Board.

Here is what some of her colleagues and others who have worked with her say of Hayden's dedication to service.

"At a time when many professors are bringing their distinguished careers to a close, Marie Hayden seeks new challenges and new tasks to better serve the university," said Teri Lesesne, associate professor of library science.

"In my 25 years at SHSU I have seen some fine people receive this award," said Paul Ruffin, professor of English. "I can think of no one better qualified or more deserving than Marie Hayden."

"Marie is both prepared and willing to take on any number of important jobs that need to be done and done right to make the university work as it should," said Frank Fair, professor of philosophy and Excellence in Teaching winner in 1989 and Excellence in Service winner in 1992. "She is not a person who limits her service to narrow discipline-related efforts. And she does not shy away from the often thankless work involved."

"On many occasions I have worked with her on university and/or community endeavors," said Mary Frances Park, retired professor of education and 1981 Excellence in Teaching award winner. "On these occasions Dr. Hayden has assumed her responsibilities with enthusiasm, with capability, and with dependability."

"I do not think you will find anyone who cares more about Sam Houston State than does Marie and who has given more unselfish hours of service," said Jane Monday, former Huntsville mayor and member and chair of the SHSU board of regents."

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
April 26, 2000
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