Professors Mark Muesse and Mary Miller Win Clarence Day Awards

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Publication Date: 4/29/2008


Dr. Mark Muesse and Dr. Mary Miller are recipients of Rhodes’ highest faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research, presented April 25 at the annual Rhodes College Awards Convocation held on campus. Muesse, associate professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching, which includes a $10,000 honorarium. Miller, associate professor in the Department of Biology, received the Clarence Day Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and/or Creative Activity, which includes a $6,000 honorarium. Both awards, first given in 1981, were established by Memphis businessman and Rhodes alumnus Clarence Day and are provided by the Day Foundation.

Also at the Rhodes Awards Convocation, departmental and service awards were presented to outstanding students and special fellowship and internship award winners were acknowledged.

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The Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching is given to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the previous three years as determined by the assessments of students and colleagues, the effective use of imaginative and creative pedagogy, and motivating students to embrace a life of continuing study. 

Muesse came to Rhodes in 1988 and was appointed chair of the Department of Religious Studies in 2004.  His colleagues recognize him as a “master teacher,” one whose “concern for students as developing persons matches his demands on their thinking and concern for others.”

Muesse requires students to visit religious settings of faiths other than their own and regularly employs images, films, and music in his teaching. In courses such as "Spirituality West and East," he teaches students the practice of meditation and requires them to engage in periods of silence, fasting from media, and mindful speech.  Students learn to interpret Christian and Hindu icons and prepare a community meal to complement their study of monastic life.

In 2007, the publishing company Augsburg/Fortress Press awarded Muesse its award for teaching in an undergraduate setting, noting his “experiential and engaged teaching of world religions and its integration into the undergraduate curriculum.” Muesse’s two recorded series of lectures for The Teaching Company also have garnered praise.

Muesse holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, the University of Southern Maine, and Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in India.

“For your innovative and engaged teaching, your skill at reaching a variety of students, and your willingness to show concern for Rhodes students not only as scholars but as spiritually developing beings, we are proud to present you with the 2008 Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching,” said Rhodes Provost Charlotte Borst at the awards ceremony. 

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The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity is presented to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated that research and/or creative activity is an integral part of his or her vocation and who has published or performed outstanding works over the previous three years that have gained scholarly recognition or creative acclaim.

Miller came to Rhodes in 2001 from New York’s Rockefeller University with a strong record of discoveries in cell biology. Her special interest is in the mechanisms of cell division, where she has established a national reputation with publications in some of the most important journals of her field including Oncogene, Journal of Cell Science, and Journal of Molecular Biology.

“Her discoveries have increased our understanding of how cells know exactly when they may divide--how they manage to avoid dividing too often or under the wrong conditions--issues that address the basic causes of cancer,” said Provost Borst in making the presentation.

In her seven years at Rhodes, Miller has received over $400,000 in support of her work from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others.  Miller’s peers in the Biology Department describe her simply as “the best.” 

Miller involves students in her research, and she takes them with her to professional conferences every year to present their work. Rhodes students also have been coauthors on Millers’ publications, and because of her guidance and her reputation in her field, her students have been accepted to a range of prestigious doctoral programs, such as those at The Rockefeller, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford University.

Miller holds a B.A. degree from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Recently she was elected to a three-year term on the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), which is a national organization that promotes high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.