Newstok and Blankenship Win Clarence Day Awards for Outstanding Teaching and Research

Dr. Scott Newstok and Dr. Carole Blankenship are recipients of Rhodes’ faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research, which were presented April 29 at the annual Rhodes College Awards Convocation held on campus.

Newstok, an associate professor in the Department of English, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching. Blankenship, an associate professor in the Department of Music, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and/or Creative Activity. The awards, first given in 1981, were established by businessman and Rhodes alumnus Clarence Day and are provided by the Day Foundation.

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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 a strong record of  motivating students to embrace a life of continuing study.

Since joining Rhodes in 2007, Newstok has become known as an innovative, devoted, and generous teacher who never tires of creating amazing learning environments for students. One colleague wrote, “In every way, Scott demonstrates to students that the space of the classroom is sacred, that the time spent there is precious, and that their full engagement with the material and with each other is absolutely necessary.” Another nominator wrote, “His classroom is always responsive to the world outside—the world of Memphis, and a larger national and international conversation.”

As the Director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes, Newstok has produced an array  of symposia from Green Shakespeare to Global Hamlet to this year’s 1616 symposium, all of which have brought outstanding scholars to campus and touched on a variety of subjects including environmental studies, religion, gender and sexuality studies, history, Africana studies, and Asian studies.

Newstok’s nominators wrote of his classes, “He commits himself to preparing a unique and highly targeted activity, one custom-designed to harness what students know, to equip them to investigate further, and to lead them in that investigation. He provides students with all the tools they need to promote their own understanding, and he demands that they put these tools to work. If our aim is to promote independent inquiry among our students and to foster a culture of active and engaged learning, then we should celebrate the example that Newstok offers us.”

Newstok holds degrees from Harvard University and Grinnell College.

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The Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and/or 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 critical acclaim.

Since joining the Rhodes music faculty in 1990, Blankenship has received national and international invitations for her lectures and vocal recitals, particularly related to her scholarship on the 20th century composer Paul Bowles. Her work in editing and publishing the music of Bowles has resulted in numerous opportunities for other artists to perform his works as well. More recently, Blankenship performed at a String Orchestra of Brooklyn event dedicated to the work of Paul Bowles. Her other performances include a lecture recital in Brisbane, Australia, as well as at major venues in Missouri, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Texas.

Blankenship also has helped to increase the national awareness of music written by female composers such as Clara Schumann, Nadia Boulanger, and Libby Larsen. Her efforts in this area of performance and scholarship have been recognized with invited concerts at the St. John’s Kirk Concert Series in Perth, Scotland, and at the Foundling Museum in London, England. 

“Dr. Blankenship is both a magnificent vocalist and an immensely capable scholar,” wrote a student nominator. “She is the reason I want to continue to perform in graduate school. She is the reason I love twentieth-century music and that I want to become a scholar of American modern music.” 

A Rhodes music alumna, Blankenship also holds degrees from The University of Memphis.