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SU Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching and Service

Each year, Susquehanna University honors two of its faculty members with academic awards for exemplary service to the institution. The 2010 winners are professors Ken Brakke and Warren Funk.

Both awards are determined by open nominations from the faculty and, in the case of the Teaching Award, also from the Student Government Association. Nominations are reviewed by the Faculty Personnel Committee, which, in turn, submits award recommendations to university President L. Jay Lemons for confirmation.

Brakke, the Charles B. Degenstein Professor of Mathematical Sciences, was awarded the John C. Horn Lectureship for outstanding scholarship and conscientious service to the university. The award is named for a former longtime member and chair of Susquehanna’s Board of Directors. As this year’s recipient, Brakke will deliver a public lecture during the 2010–11 academic year.

Brakke earned his doctorate degree from Princeton University and joined the Susquehanna University faculty in 1983. His research focuses on the surface properties of soap film and bubbles. He is the author of the Surface Evolver program, which models the shapes of liquid surfaces subject to various energies and constraints. The Surface Evolver has hundreds of users around the world and is in continuing development. It has been used for consulting work on subjects ranging from satellite fuel tanks in weightlessness to liquid solder shapes to high-altitude balloons. It also played a role in the design of the Water Cube swimming venue at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“His nominators praise him as an internationally recognized scholar of the highest quality,” said former Provost and Dean of Faculty Linda McMillin in presenting the award to Brakke at Commencement.

Funk, professor of philosophy, was honored with the Susquehanna University Teaching Award. Funk earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Olaf College and a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary. After earning his doctorate degree at Columbia University, he accepted a position at Susquehanna University in 1995 as an administrator. In 2003 he joined the faculty and developed expertise in the philosophy of religion, with a focus on Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Funk also specializes in contemporary philosophy of religion and epistemology, and American pragmatism. He teaches a variety of courses in philosophy, including Problems in Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, and Aesthetics.

“His intellect was unquestionable, almost daunting at times, and I’d like to think a good share of it rubbed off on me during my time in his class,” said one student as part of Funk’s award nomination.


Staff Recognized for Service

Each year, Susquehanna bestows the Gates Award on staff members who exemplify outstanding service to the university. Established by Signe Gates ’71, vice chair of Susquehanna’s Board of Trustees, the award honors these employees for advancing the strategic objectives of the university and enhancing the undergraduate experience. This year the award went to Margie Briskey, Connie Trelinski and Kathy Kroupa.

Briskey, administrative director of the health center, led the university through the H1N1 flu crisis last year. She was also instrumental in forging a partnership with Geisinger Health System that resulted in the development of a new student health center and public medical clinic on campus. Phil Winger, vice president for student life and dean of students, calls Briskey “a strong advocate for students.” Winger and the entire student life leadership team nominated Briskey, as did Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Mike Coyne.

Coyne also nominated Trelinski, administrative assistant for facilities management, for her competence, dedication and positive attitude. Coordinating maintenance for a growing campus is a hectic job, but, Coyne says, Trelinski “has managed to stay comfortably on top of all the work and treats everyone with respect and good cheer, be they the president or a newly hired employee.”

Kroupa, head women’s soccer and softball coach, received Landmark Conference Coach of the Year awards in both sports. Kroupa’s contributions off the field include work on campus committees, such as the Bias Response and Education Team, and creation of the SU Team GPA Award, sparking a new focus on team academic performance. “Kathy’s tremendous commitment to excellence on the field, combined with her genuine desire to develop the student-athlete as a whole person, is a perfect fit with SU’s mission,” says Director of Athletics Pam Samuelson, who nominated Kroupa.


Writers Institute Makes Strides

This year has marked major growth and success for The Writers Institute at Susquehanna University. The program opened the 2010–11 academic year with a record 165 creative writing majors and unveiled a new Writers Institute building on University Avenue, a place for faculty, alumni and students to study and share their work.

Four members of the creative writing faculty are enjoying notable literary success. Professor of English Gary Fincke, director of the Writers Institute and Charles B. Degenstein Chair of English and Creative Writing, is getting his work noticed by Hollywood. Film rights were sold for his nonfiction book Amp’d (Michigan State University Press, July 2004). Amp’d is the second book from SU’s creative writing faculty to have its screen rights sold to Hollywood. Mathew Aldrich has written a screenplay of The Grace That Keeps This World (Random House, Crown Publishing Group, 2005), a novel by Professor of English and Creative Writing Tom Bailey. Producer Mark Johnson of Gran Via Co. and director Barry Jackson are currently sending the script to actors for review. Fincke and Bailey also had books published this year. Fincke’s memoir, The Canals of Mars, was released in March by Michigan State University Press, and the second edition of Bailey’s guidebook, On Writing Short Stories, was released by Oxford University Press in July and translated into Korean. Bailey also has two novels, Sunny Hills and Two Hearts, awaiting release by Random House.

Additionally, Karla Kelsey, assistant professor of English and creative writing, had her book, Iteration Nets, published by Ahsahta Press in September 2010. The Jack Bank, a memoir by Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Glen Retief, is slated for publication in April by St. Martin’s Press.

Fincke attributes the program’s growth to good word of mouth. Alumni publication and graduate school success continue to distinguish the program. Jay Varner ’03’s memoir, Nothing Left to Burn (Algonquin Books, 2010), Nick Ripatrazone ’03’s prose poetry collection, Oblations (Gold Wake Press, 2011), and the upcoming publication of Sarah Turcotte ’09’s short story, Scars, in The Atlantic are just a few examples of the success creative writing alumni are enjoying. Fincke says graduate school success also is “off the charts,” with students in top-flight graduate programs at such institutions as the University of Iowa, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Houston.  

Contributing writers to The ‘Grove section are Audrey Carroll ‘12; Karen Jones, assistant director of media relations; Victoria Kidd and  Megan McDermott ‘14.

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