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SHSU Recognizes Faculty Excellence

Harrell, Hoover, Gerling, Gaertner
President Jim Gaertner (far right) congratulates the recipients of the 2002 Faculty Excellence Awards. From left, they are Billy Harrell, Larry Hoover and David Gerling.

Foreign language, criminal justice and agriculture. Their fields of expertise are different, but the common characteristics they share are passionate dedication, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a driving desire to effectively communicate that knowledge with others.

They stand out this year among their peers and because of their outstanding contributions in their professions, three Sam Houston State University professors will be honored during spring commencement ceremonies on May 4.

They are David Gerling, who will be recognized for Excellence in Teaching; Larry Hoover, for Excellence in Research; and Billy Harrell, for Excellence in Service.

Excellence in Teaching

David Gerling
David Gerling

Gerling, associate professor of foreign language, has been at Sam Houston State since 1988. He earned his bachelor of arts degree at Marist College, his master's degree at New York University and the University of Madrid, and his doctorate at the University of Arizona.

His area of specialty is in language acquisition and contemporary Spanish literature and civilization.

"He has a very positive attitude toward the students and is eager to meet their intellectual needs," said Frieda Koeninger of her colleague.

"Always respectful and courteous, he keeps an upbeat atmosphere in the classroom and encourages his students in their efforts," she said. "They reward his sincerity with hard effort inside and outside class."

Gerling has been a pioneer in bringing the best and most recent developments in the pedagogy of second language instruction, said Distinguished Professor of History James Olson who serves as chair of the Department of History.

"For centuries, until the 1970s, second language instruction revolved around the 'grammar-translation' method, in which students were taught the grammar of a language before they could ever speak it," said Olson.

"The revolutionary pedagogy of the 1970s argued that babies learn to speak before they ever learn a grammar lesson, and that the way to teach a second language is to get students speaking it from the first day of class, even if they make mistakes, just as toddlers do," he explained.

"Today, that approach to second language instruction has swept the nation, and Dr. Gerling was a pioneer, bringing it to Sam Houston State before it was at Harvard or Yale or Duke," said Olson.

According to Olson, students, including Olson's own son, perceive Gerling as a gifted, talented teacher who cares about them and wants them to succeed.

"They clamor to get into his classes, and it is not uncommon for them to postpone Spanish a semester if Gerling's classes are full," said Olson, who serves as the academic adviser for all history majors at SHSU.

Some of Gerling's students offered the following comments:

  • Before this course, I've never taken Spanish and I like Dr. Gerling's teaching technique. I work in a Mexican restaurant where most of the cooks can only speak Spanish. Well, now I can say 'Hi' to them and ask how they are doing from learning the 'First Encounter' in this class. I can even use baby talk to communicate with them. I hope to take Dr. Gerling's classes for the remainder of my Spanish career.

  • Dr. Gerling's class is the best Spanish course I have ever taken. Dr. Gerling is an excellent professor who really does care how we do and wants us to succeed in his class. Although our class has a lot of fun in learning the Spanish language, we really get a lot done and cover a lot of material. What I like most about the class is that we interact a lot with each other and with him, and it helps us overcome the fear of speaking in front of people.

  • When I first came to this class, I was afraid. On the first day, I was totally at ease, because my professor (Gerling) has a great sense of humor. When I ask questions he does not make me feel dumb. I am very grateful for this man. He has his own unique teaching style that has helped me understand more Spanish than I have in the previous three years of taking it in high school.

In addition to teaching, Gerling has written a number of articles and has served as a book reviewer for World Literature Today since 1980.

Excellence in Research

Larry Hoover
Larry Hoover

Larry Hoover received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University and has been on the criminal justice faculty at Sam Houston State University since 1977.

Hoover is a past president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and currently directs the Police Research Center at SHSU.

A former police officer in Lansing, Michigan and training coordinator with the Michigan Law Enforcement Officer's Training Council, he also served on the faculty at Michigan State University.

A co-principal of Justex Systems, publisher of Police Labor Monthly and Fire Service Labor Monthly, Hoover has worked extensively on police personnel problems. His current research endeavors include editing the Texas Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics bulletin series, technology transfer for the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, directing two technology grants from the National Institute of Justice, and directing a major police information system development project, CRIMES.

He is editor of the anthologies Police Management: Issues and Perspectives, Quantifying Quality in Policing, and Police Program Evaluation, all published by the Police Executive Research Forum, and coauthor of Enduring, Surviving, and Thriving As A Law Enforcement Executive, Charles C. Thomas Publishing.

In addition to his research, Hoover also supervises doctoral students in the SHSU College of Criminal Justice and provides direction for them in their research strategies.

The topics he selects to investigate are frequently "ahead of the curve," according to colleague Jerry Dowling, professor of criminal justice and last year's recipient of the SHSU Excellence in Teaching Award.

"Dr. Hoover authored a bulletin to provide guidance to law enforcement executives in analyzing racial profiling data before that topic began receiving broad media attention," said Dowling.

Hoover also has a long record of sharing his research at regional and national professional meetings, as well as with law enforcement agencies literally from Alaska to Maine, according to Dowling.

Hoover's research has earned him respect among his peers in law enforcement. Last year, the Police Section of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences awarded him the prestigious O. W. Wilson Award. The award was given for "outstanding contributions to police education, research, and practice."

Excellence in Service

Billy Harrell
William Harrell

William R. (Billy) Harrell earned his Ph.D. in agriculture education/agriculture mechanization at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

He is a professor of agricultural mechanization and served as the chair of the agriculture department at SHSU from 1985 to 1995.

For over 30 years, he has been involved in agriculture education and has received numerous awards for his contributions, from Outstanding Young Vocational Agriculture Teacher, Texas and Southern Region, U. S. Steel Corporation in 1968 to the Hall of Honor, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1998.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Harrell maintains an active schedule of service in the work that he does outside the classroom. He serves as superintendent on the Ag Mechanics Project Show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and has volunteered his time to judge at hundreds of other local, state and national events.

He conducts agricultural mechanics certification workshops for the Texas Education Agency to qualify agricultural science teachers to teach pre-employment laboratory courses at the secondary level.

He has also developed and conducted FFA Tractor Technician Career Development Events for the ten Texas Agricultural Sciences areas and for the Area IX FFA Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event. He has served as the awards coordinator for the National FFA Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event held in Louisville, Ky.

Locally, Harrell is chair of the Huntsville FFA Advisory committee, superintendent of the Walker County Fair Supervised Project Show, and a member of the Walker County Cooperative Extension Program Council, the Houston Community College Agricultural Sciences Advisory Committee and the Huntsville I.S.D. Vocational Advisory Committee.

"Not only has he mentored and taught the fortunate students of Sam Houston State, he has provided countless opportunities for teachers and secondary students to gain from his vast experience and knowledge in the field of agricultural mechanics," said Robert Lane, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at SHSU.

"As chair of this department, through my travels I am made even more aware of the lives Billy Harrell has touched," said Lane.

"While many choose to concentrate their service activities closer to home, Dr. Harrell has logged many miles and hours traveling to remote locations to provide service to those in greatest need," Lane continued.

"Most of his service activities have come at his own expense and on his own time, which to me indicates Dr. Harrell's remarkable dedication to his profession and to this university. He has always been one of SHSU's greatest ambassadors, with hundreds of former and current students choosing to attend the university as a result of their communication and interaction with Dr. Harrell," Lane said.

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SHSU Media Contact: Julia May
April 17, 2002
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