SHEPHERDSTOWN – Shepherd has another winner.
Just three years after the university’s art professor Sonya Evanisko West Virginia Professor of the Year honors, the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia has selected Heidi Hanrahan for this year’s award.
Hanrahan, who joined Shepherd’s Department of English and Modern Languages in 2007 after earning her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, accepted the award last week at a banquet in the Great Hall of the Culture Center in Charleston.
Shepherd officials say they nominated Hanrahan because of her achievements in teaching and involvement on campus and in the community.
“It makes me feel so grateful and motivates me to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Hanrahan said in a news release. “What a great thing for Shepherd and for our students, the other faculty and the staff who work so hard. This is as much their recognition as it is mine.”
Over the years, Shepherd also has had four other Professor of the Year winners – Edward M. Snyder, Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, Linda Tate and Margaret Byrer.
Hanrahan said winning the award has her wanting to reach more students, across all majors.
“That’s what’s so lovely about this too – it’s a wonderful recognition for arts and humanities and the liberal arts,” said Hanrahan, who earned her bachelor’s in English and history from Virginia’s Roanoke College. Her master’s also is from UNC-Greensboro. “It recognizes the kind of work we do here at Shepherd, which includes that close relationship with students, nurturing and mentoring them and getting them ready for the world beyond the university.”
Scott Beard, Shepherd’s provost who himself was a Professor of the Year finalist in 2009, describes Hanrahan as a “natural choice” and a “strong scholar, prize-winning, outstanding teacher and adviser, and caring, contributing member of the university and surrounding community.”
In a news release from the foundation, a former student shared what a difference Hanrahan had made in her life. “Dr. Heidi Hanrahan teaches her students to see the world differently again and again, and to realize that their voices matter in making that world better,” said Emily Spangler, a Huntington native who now works as a University of Maryland library services supervisor.
Besides teaching English and literature classes, Hanrahan advises the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society, works with students on capstone projects, helps them present at conferences and publish their work, and takes part in summer advising and registration sessions.
The Rocky Point, N.Y., native also has organized special events, from a poetry festival involving high school students to a panel discussion to commemorate Frankenstein at age 200. She’s gone on radio talk shows to discuss Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and worked with her colleague, Carrie Messenger, to put on a Jane Austen tea party at the public library in Shepherdstown.
The Faculty Merit Foundation’s award, which comes with a $10,000 cash gift, dates to 1984.
The honor was created to provide recognition and to reward innovation and creativity among faculty members from West Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities.
Mary J.C. Hendrix, Shepherd’s president, said the school is “extremely proud” of Hanrahan and her commitment to excellence.
“We are most fortunate to have faculty who excel in teaching, and we are grateful that these efforts are recognized at the highest level in West Virginia,” Hendrix said.