Professor of History
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Battle of Antietam, Freeze Style
Professor Gary Freeze bends over a giant homemade map that covers an entire classroom table. He shoves a handful of blue spools across the cardboard.
"Right at dawn, just like they're supposed to, Joe Hooker's troops on Hagerstown Pike literally come crashing into the West Woods," he says to the Catawba College students who are gathered around the Civil War battlefield map. "He wakes up Stonewall Jackson and masses his troops at a place called the Cornfield and the West Woods."
The class watches as the spools sweep back and forth in total chaos. "There are more bodies than stubble corn," Freeze says, after pointing out where his great great grandfather got shot in the hip. "Right there."
The students learn that Lee had only 15,000 of his troops at Sharpsburg the day before the battle and only half as many as the Union on the day of the conflict. "What's missing?" Freeze asks. "Half his army is still out there lollygagging around Fredrick, Md."
This is the Battle of Antietam, Freeze style. Livelier than any textbook, more active than a Ken Burns documentary, Freeze's class resurrects the past. "Even when the semester is over, you still want to learn more about the class," says recent graduate Kevin Funderburk. "He gives you an interest in the subject that makes you want to contintue to learn."
Professor of Religion
B.A., Carroll College; M.Div., Crozer Theological Seminary; M.Phil., Ph.D., Drew University
Barry Sang is late.
It's not that he doesn't value punctuality. It's just that his students were wrestling with the subject of God and evil, and he couldn't leave them just because the clock said class was over.
"They're still talking about it in the hallway," he says. "That means the topic is real for them."
The topic is real because Sang, professor of religion, has a way of making ethereal subjects seem central to his students' lives.
"Dr. Sang is so dynamic and enthusiastic," says Melinda Coble, a recent graduate. "He gets so excited about the knowledge he has and is so eager to share that with the students. And he's an excellent facilitator of discussion. He really cares that students learn and get something out of his classes."
Sang wants his students to make a connection between education and life. That may mean encouraging them to step into the shoes of David as he looks into the courtyard at Bathsheba. "It's not unlike looking out your back window at your neighbor who is out there in a bikini," he says. "There are connections between their stories and ours. There is drama in knowledge -- trying to find out `who done it' and why and what it means."
Sang feels it is his responsibility to help his students see life from different perspectives -- from the viewpoint of Aristotle, for example, or the Buddha. "I want them to pick up what they are learning and hold it at arm's length and turn it around," he says. "I want them to see that education is about life."
Professor of Biology
B.S. Florida State University; Ph.D., University of Georgia
Making Ideas Concrete
Each year Catawba College Professor Steve Coggin fries an egg for his introductory biology class.
It's typical Coggin: taking a complex idea and making it concrete.
"The white of an egg is clear before you cook it," Coggin explains, "and when you fry it, it turns opaque. By adding heat, you change the three-dimensional structure of a protein."
That creativity in conveying ideas -- plus his enthusiasm for teaching and learning, his accessibility to students and his constant effort to stay current and bring the latest information into his classroom -- has garnered Coggin the Swink Award for Outstanding Teaching.
It is typical for students to comment that Dr. Coggin's courses are among their favorites. "He was willing to stop and explain things," says graduate Erica Vedeikis. "He cared that we were learning."
"I teach things that you don't see with the naked eye -- introductory biology, genetics, cell biology, microbiology," Coggin says. "I'm always showing pictures or drawing things on the board or using overheads or computer simulations."
Or frying an egg. "Words aren't really enough," he says.
Making his labs interesting and current is important to Coggin. "I try to do something new every year in lab," he says. Students in his genetics class recently analyzed their own genes by doing DNA fingerprinting.
"I want my students to understand the material, but, more than that, I want them to have an open mind and be willing to accept something new."
Professor of English / Writer-in-Residence
B.A., Duke University; M.A., Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Gladly Learning and Gladly Teaching
Professor Janice Fuller flips through the pages of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to find the passage that describes her best.
Here it is. She reads it in the Middle English. "And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teache."
Gladly learn and gladly teach. That's it. That's why this professor of English at Catawba College won both the Teacher of the Year Award and the Swink Prize for Outstanding Teaching in the same year.
Faculty can't recall anyone else winning both awards at the same time. Of course, they probably can't recall anyone who gives more of herself to her students either or anyone who approaches teaching with the white-hot intensity she does.
Even when she's standing still, her whirling dervish of a mind is scattering a thousand ideas around the classroom and then, just as quickly, it is making connections and bringing them back together into a unified whole. Her kind blue eyes are telling a student that he has special talents and that together they will draw them to the surface.
She wants her students to experience the sheer joy of life. "In my literature classes I want them to be infused with this absolute excitement about the written word," she says, "about the beauty of what can be accomplished. But, more than that, I want them to feel an awe about life itself."
Professor of History
B.A., King College; M.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Ph.D., University of Virginia; post-doctoral study, Oxford University
McAllister Leads Conversation with Great Minds
It's a Great Books seminar at Catawba College that developed spontaneously. And history professor Charles McAllister couldn't be happier.
On Wednesdays a group of the faithful gather around a large table in Room 401 in Hedrick Hall for a conversation with some of the great minds of the ages. The students discuss Rabelais and Flaubert and Homer. They ask tough questions of the authors and of each other. They read and they think. Then they read and they think some more.
For McAllister, this is a labor of love. "People and books are what make education fun," he says.
McAllister is basing the course on Mortimer Adler's work, How To Read A Book. The students spend the first weeks of the course learning to read critically. "The key is to realize that reading is an activity," McAllister says. "If it's passive, it's just killing time. You might as well play solitaire or video games."
The students have learned to survey a book before they tackle it analytically. "You familiarize yourself with the book before you ever really read it," he says. "It's like going to a dance stag. You look around first."
Then the students dig in. "Analytical reading requires you to dissect a book into its component parts much the same way you would dissect a frog or a fetal pig," he says.
"The first day we met, I told them this would be the best class they've ever had," McAllister says. "The reason is not because of me but because of what they're doing. They're developing critical reading habits, and `habit' is the key word. It's a skill that becomes habitual, that they do automatically without thinking about it.
"This is education for a lifetime. It doesn't stop with Adler's book. These are skills they can take with them forever."
Professor of Sociology
B.A., Catawba College; M.A., Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Helping Students Understand Why Things Happen
When Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, a nun gave Edith Bolick a silkscreen print bearing one of Kennedy's quotes: "Each time a man stands for an ideal or strikes out against injustice, or acts to improve the lot of others, he sends forth a ripple of hope."
That statement became central to Dr. Bolick's life. This associate dean and sociology professor at Catawba College has made a commitment to helping others. "If you act in ways that lift people up and improve your life as well as theirs, it makes a difference," she says, "and little differences add up."
Called "the soul of equanimity," Bolick is universally admired on campus. She received the Trustee Award for outstanding contribution to the college in 1998.
She gives each individual the gift of her complete attention, listening without judgment. Her background in sociology has influenced that approach to listening. She knows that people are shaped by all sorts of forces, both biological and environmental.
Sociology became her passion when she was an undergraduate. "Going to college in the '60s, when society was in a state of upheaval, made me want to understand why things happen the way they do," she says. "It drew me to my discipline."
Now she tries to engender that same passion in her sociology majors. Dr. Bolick also tries to help non-majors understand how society works and how it influences people. "I hope they become less judgmental and more objective," she says. "I hope they look at all the forces that influence people and influence their own lives, too."