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From left, President Marks, Bill Fleming, Rowland Miller, and Jim Merchant

Three outstanding profs
Honored for excellence

The qualifications of this year's excellence award recipients at Sam Houston State University are marked by years of persistence, scholarship, and dedication not limited to the classroom.

  • William P. Fleming, winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award, has been a Department of English faculty member for 26 years, and is known for his ability to tailor assignments to the abilities of individual students and for years of service to students and campus organizations.

  • Rowland S. Miller, winner of the Excellence in Research Award, has been a Department of Psychology and Philosophy faculty member for 20 years and has become a nationally-recognized authority on the psychology of embarrassment after years of research and writing on that and related topics;

  • Jimmy Nolan Merchant, winner of the Excellence in Service Award, has been a teacher for 42 years and in teacher education at SHSU for 29 years. He has been a leader in the initiative to obtain an education doctorate at SHSU, not letting a heart attack and by-pass surgery sideline him in the final stages of that effort.

"These faculty members are among our best, and certainly deserving of these awards," said Bobby K. Marks, Sam Houston president. "The fact that it has taken them so long to be recognized speaks highly of the quality of the entire faculty."

In winning the Excellence in Teaching Award, Fleming becomes only the fourth SHSU faculty member to receive more than one of the three top faculty awards. He was nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Award in nine previous years. He also won the Excellence in Service Award in 1996, after two other nominations. No one has won all three.

Several of Fleming's colleagues who nominated him for the award mentioned how much they have learned from his "commitment to the students" in his classes.

"They (students) rave (literally) about the way he works to encourage students to become responsible for their education and to become involved in the subject matter," wrote Carol Smith, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. "These students find him to be a thoroughly dedicated professor. Most often I hear, 'He really cares about us.'"

In addition to his classroom work, Fleming currently chairs the University Faculty Senate and has served on numerous committees. He was adviser for the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society for 14 years, adviser and national officer for the Sigma Chi Fraternity for 26 years, and he served as an Alumni Association board member for seven years and as association president in 1995-1996.

Miller is known throughout the United States for his research in various areas of social psychology, especially on dysfunctional behavior and embarrassment. His books on those two areas have been used on a wide variety of campuses as texts, translated into several foreign languages, and are recognized as important contributions to the discipline of psychology.

"He is one of the most productive researchers on the campus of Sam Houston State University," said A. Jerry Bruce, who chairs the Department of Psychology and Philosophy. "Dr. Miller is a nationally known figure and has been called upon for invited addresses in universities from Texas to North Carolina."

In addition to his research and writing, Miller serves as associate editor of the "Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology," after serving 11 years as a consulting editor. He has also served on a number of departmental and university-wide committees and advisory groups.

Merchant began his professional career as a teacher and principal in the Edna, Texarkana and Sherman schools and taught for one year at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Since coming to teach at SHSU in 1969, he has also served as coordinator of elementary education, chairman of the Division of Teacher Education, and now as the first director of the Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership.

Merchant has won numerous awards and honors, served in various regional, state and national advisory capacities in the field of education, chaired and served on many university and departmental committees and bodies, and served various professional organizations at all levels.

In a nomination letter signed by 10 faculty members in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling, Merchant was praised for his many years of effort toward securing the university's second doctoral program in January, 1997, and his efforts in the final push.

"...During this difficult time, Dr. Merchant had a heart attack and by-pass surgery," the faculty wrote. "However, he always continued to support us as a faculty. As soon as he was somewhat able to do so, he worked with the department to edit our doctoral documents.

"He did so via a courier to his house and advised us via telephone as to our next steps. His perseverance and commitment paid off, and today we have our fine doctoral program, thanks in a very large part to him."

Marks will recognize each of the excellence award recipients during the university's spring commencement exercises May 16. Excellence winners are also given cash awards--$1,200 for Teaching, $1,000 for Research, and $800 for Service.


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
April 23, 1998
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