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Outstanding faculty honored for 2019-2020 academic year

ISSUED: 1 May 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University is honoring its outstanding faculty for the 2019-2020 academic year, announcing awards online in place of the annual luncheon due to COVID-19.

Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst, assistant professor of history, is this year’s recipient of the Mentzer Award for Inspirational Teaching. The award was established by alumna Susan Mentzer-Blair and her husband, William “Bill” Blair, who are both retired educators. The $1,000 award goes to a full-time professor recognized by Shepherd students for being particularly inspiring and having a profound effect on students.

“I am West Virginian, even though I no longer live in the state,” Mentzer-Blair said. “Bill and I met while he was teaching history in West Virginia. It’s an amazingly wonderful coincidence that the professor chosen for this award, Dr. Ben Bankhurst, teaches West Virginia history and apparently loves the culture of Appalachia. We’re thrilled to present this to him. I think our only requirement would be that we get a chance to meet him after this virus is over.”

Student Allison Wharton, a history major from Charles Town, nominated Bankhurst for the award.

“I am humbled to have been nominated, let alone awarded, this honor,” Bankhurst said. “I would like to say thank you to the student committee and the student who nominated me. I am surprised and truly grateful to work with such outstanding and committed students.”

Dr. Ann Wendle, graduate program coordinator for College Student Development Administration, won this year’s Storer College Faculty Award, which recognizes a member of the faculty who incorporates diversity and social justice into the classroom, research, scholarship, and interaction with students. The Storer College Award Committee selects the winner, who receives a $500 stipend to be used toward professional development and is recognized on a perpetual plaque in the Storer Ballroom.

The committee wrote that Wendle “has been a pivotal educator in social justice for the individual, classroom, and college-wide populations. Her professional philosophy aligns with practices that support students in marginalized identities by reaching out in one-on-one advising/mentoring relationships.”

“I think it’s important to infuse the struggle of marginalized identities into the courses across the curriculum,” Wendle said. “If we don’t know that a woman, a person of color, someone who is gender fluid or non-binary, someone who is challenged with mental health issues or socio economics is experiencing education and/or everyday life differently with challenges that the majority population is unaware of, then we contribute to the gap between equity and marginalization. When people can see and empathize with the struggles of others and are inspired to make a difference, I believe we have encouraged student development.”

Other awards went to Dr. LeAnn Johnson, associate professor of education, Douglas C. Smith Graduate Faculty Award, whose recruitment efforts have nearly doubled enrollment for the Master of Arts in Teachingprogram; Dr. Chiquita Howard-Bostic, chair, Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Criminal Justice, Outstanding Faculty Award for Advising, who often advises many students, including those from other majors who seek her advice; and Dr. Heidi Dobish, associate professor of psychology, Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching, for delivering course materials in a professional and collegial manner and working with incoming freshmen as they maneuver their new academic experiences.

Dr. Scott Hippensteel, associate professor of music/director of bands, won Outstanding Faculty Award for Service, for giving to the music community at Shepherd, in the surrounding community, and the region; and Dr. Christy Wenger, associate professor of English, earned Outstanding Faculty Award for Scholarship, for research that brings together corporate applications and collaborative theories of mindful leadership to forward a proposal for secular mindful academic leadership. Each recipient receives a $500 stipend and will have their names added to plaques displayed on campus.

Recognition was also given to Dr. Jeff Groff, chair, Department of Environmental and Physical Sciences, for being a finalist for West Virginia Professor of the Year.

More information can be found at

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