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Bernadette McNary-Zak and Jeffrey H. Jackson Win Clarence Day Awards

Publication Date: 5/2/2011

Drs. Bernadette McNary-Zak and Jeffrey H. Jackson are recipients of Rhodes’ highest faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research presented April 29 at the annual Rhodes College Awards Convocation held on campus. Also at the ceremony, departmental and service awards were presented to outstanding students, and special fellowship and internship award winners were acknowledged.

McNary-Zak, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching. Jackson, an associate professor in the Department of History, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity.

The awards, first given in 1981, were established by businessman and Rhodes alumnus Clarence Day and are provided by the Day Foundation. Day died in October of 2009, and Dr. Michael R. Drompp, dean of the faculty, announced at the awards ceremony that the trustees of the Day Foundation have made the commitment to fully endow the awards so that they may be granted to deserving Rhodes faculty in perpetuity. The Day Foundation’s trustees—Richard Buchignani, William Griesbeck, and Tom Whitman—joined him on the podium to assist in the announcing of this year’s awards.


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. 

Since joining Rhodes in 1999, McNary-Zak has taught courses in early Christian literature and practice, and in the Search Program. She also has co-edited a book on undergraduate research in the field of religious studies that will be released this fall by Oxford University Press.

“Professor McNary-Zak’s colleagues and students describe her as a teacher who is committed to the individual development of her students and equally dedicated to the craft of teaching,” said Drompp in presenting the award. “The word that students consistently used in their letters of nomination to describe her was ‘inspiring’ . . . Refusing simply to pass on information in lectures, or even to pose questions in Socratic fashion, she works to cultivate probing and productive discussion among her students.”

In addition, McNary-Zak is the faculty advisor to The Ruka, an intentional community of six Rhodes students dedicated to sustainable living and service. One student wrote, “As a community, the members of The Ruka trained for a half-marathon benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I suffered a knee injury and was unable to run. My discouragement on race day dissipated as I walked to North Parkway and found Professor McNary-Zak in the crowd with her son and a large sign declaring ‘GO RUKA.’ Professor McNary-Zak encourages her students, "You can, and you will learn and question and grow.”

McNary-Zak holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, an M.A. from Catholic University of America, and a B.A. from University of Rochester.


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 critical acclaim.

Jackson joined the Rhodes faculty in 2000 and his “work quickly has established him as a cultural historian of note,” said Drompp. Jackson’s first book, Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (2003) was a finalist for Best Research in Recorded Jazz from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, and portions of the book have been reprinted in two edited readers. Jackson also served as a consultant for a documentary film on jazz in Paris and in 2005, co-edited a collection of essays titled Music and History: Bridging the Disciplines.

In 2007, he was named a “Top Young Historian” by the History News Network for his research on jazz. “Even more than his contributions to the cultural history of music, Professor Jackson’s recent work on the Paris flood of 1910 solidified his reputation as a leading historian of modern France,” added Drompp.

Jackson began research on Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 around the time hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. The book is based on a wealth of original archival material, photographs, and government documents. “Paris Under Water has received wide acclaim in the popular press from both fellow historians and journalists and has led to dozens of invitations for talks, interviews, and panel discussions,” added Drompp. “Speaking at colleges, universities, and bookstores throughout the world, Professor Jackson has spread the name of Rhodes College far and wide. And the invitations continue.”

Jackson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and a B.S. from Vanderbilt University.

Tags: Campus Life, Events, Faculty, Honors


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Karen Aurandt May 7, 2011

Congratulations, Bernie!! Glad I googled you today... You look exactly the same as 25 years ago! Not surprised that you are doing so well!!