Professors Eric Henager and Chris Mouron Win Clarence Day Awards

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Publication Date: 5/4/2009


Dr. Eric Henager and Dr. Chris Mouron are recipients of Rhodes’ highest faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research, presented May 1 at the annual Rhodes College Awards Convocation held on campus.

Henager, associate professor in the Department of  Modern Languages and Literatures, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching, which includes a $10,000 honorarium. Mouron, associate professor in the Mathematics & Computer Science, 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. 

A Rhodes alumnus, Henager graduated in 1989 with a B.A. degree in Spanish and returned to the college in 1995 to teach. He completed M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
 
Henager received glowing praise from students and colleagues who nominated him for the award. “Professor Henager exhibits unflagging energy, inventiveness, and a willingness to take personal risks to help his students dive into and experience fully the study of another culture and language,” wrote one individual.  A former student reflected that “Professor Henager’s disarming presence in the classroom persuaded students to check their fear at the door.”  Another student described the ways in which Professor Henager’s classroom strategy “encouraged many shy, but thoughtful, students to open up and join in.” 

Henager has been a highly engaged member of the Rhodes community, serving for many years as Spanish Language Section Head, and director of many Rhodes study-abroad programs. He also has been a long-standing member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association and served as that organization’s president 2005-2006. 

“It is with great admiration for Professor Henager’s commitment to the educational mission at the heart of the Rhodes community, and for his long record of innovation and achievement, that I am pleased to recognize Eric Henager as this year’s winner of the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching,” said Dr.  Michael R. Drompp, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, 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.

Mouron came to Rhodes in 2002 after holding visiting positions at the University of Delaware and at Hendrix College. He holds a B.S. degree from Lafayette College and
M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Texas Tech University.

Mouron’s research lies in a branch of topology called continuum theory that goes to the heart of fundamental and difficult questions about the concept of space. “Imagine twisting and stretching a rubber band into the most complicated tangle you can possibly produce,” explained Drompp.  “Analyzing how complicated you can make the tangle, and how much further you can stretch the tangled rubber band without breaking it, is the kind of question addressed by Professor Mouron’s work in continuum theory.”

A leading specialist in his field, Mouron has published in the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, which is recognized as among the most prestigious mathematics journals in the world, and serves as a referee for several top journals. One of his papers answered a central question in continuum theory which had stumped the experts for over 40 years. In 2007, he was a featured speaker at the International Conference on Topology and Its Applications, in Kyoto, Japan, and for the past two summers in Canada and Mexico, he has taught other specialists about his pioneering techniques. Mouron also serves on the steering committee of the annual Spring Topology and Dynamics Conference. 

“Professor Mouron, for the breadth and depth of your many scholarly pursuits, and for visible proof that one can integrate a top-flight research program into the life of a mathematician at a liberal arts college,  it is my pleasure to present to you as the 29th recipient,  the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity,” said Drompp.