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Mentzer Award for Inspirational Teaching

The Mentzer Award for Inspirational Teaching was created by alumna Susan Mentzer-Blair and her husband, William “Bill” Blair to honor a full-time professor recognized by Shepherd students for being particularly inspiring and having a profound effect on his or her students. According to Mentzer-Blair, her brother, Dr. John Thomas “Tom” Mentzer, served as inspiration for the award because he received a similar accolade from his Ph.D. candidate students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he held the Bruce Chair of Excellence in the business department.

MAIT honors Mentzer-Blair’s brother, who passed away in 2010, as well as her mother, who followed in 2014. A portion of each of their estates was used to create this recognition through the Shepherd University Foundation. Mentzer-Blair is a retired school counselor with Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland and her husband is also a retired educator, having taught history and worked as a school counselor with Jefferson County Public Schools.

Click here to view a message from Susan Mentzer-Blair for the 2020 award.

2020 Mentzer Award for Inspirational Teaching:  Dr. Ben Bankhurst

Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst received his BA degree from the University of New Mexico and his Masters and Ph.D. from Kings College, University of London.  Dr. Bankhurst’s research focuses on migration to the Appalachian frontier in the colonial and revolutionary periods.  Before joining the History Department at Shepherd, Dr. Bankhurst held teaching and research appointments at the London School of Economics; the Institute of Historical Research; and Queen Mary, University of London.  His articles have appeared in the Pennsylvania Magazine for History and BiographyThe Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, and Eire/Ireland. The American Council for Irish Studies awarded his first book Ulster Presbyterians and the Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2013) the Donald Murphy Prize.

Dr. Bankhurst has received a number of grants and has also participated in innovative digital humanities projects through a grant from the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities (COPLAC) and a Lapidus Digital Collections Fellowship for “The Maryland Loyalist Project.” The grant provides  undergraduate students the opportunity to develop in-demand skills in the digital humanities such as web design, transcription, mapping and visualization while they help create a website that will provide scholars and the public with online access to rare manuscript records from the Parliamentary Loyalist Claims Commission held by the National Archives at Kew, England.  This is just one example of his innovative and inspirational teaching methods.

Student nomination:  For the 2020 Mentzer Award, I would like to nominate Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst, whom I had for West Virginia History and History of the Lower Shenendoah Valley.  Dr. Bankhurst is an animated and brilliant professor, well loved by all who are lucky enough to take his courses.  Dr. Bankhurst is not only a kind and understanding professor, but a genuinely wonderful person all around, and makes it clear throughout semesters spent with him that he genuinely cares about getting to know all of his students and is willing to help with anything they may need.  As it is apparent from asking any of Dr. Bankhurst’s students that he has made an impact on who they are as historians or scholars in general, he has also helped me greatly in my personal life as well.  College gets difficult sometimes, as any student knows.  Dr. Bankhurst inspires me to push forward with my goals of going to graduate school, offers advice when I need it, and believes in me when I feel like no else one does.  Dr. Bankhurst is someone I have been able to laugh with, but also a listening ear when I need someone to cry to.  Dr. Bankhurst inspires me to be a better historian of course, but a better and kinder person as well.  On days when I need it most, Dr. Bankhurst is quick to remind me that his “door is always open.”  And on those days, that makes all the difference.