Each year at the spring commencement on the Lamoni campus, Graceland University announces the recipients of three faculty awards: the Excellence in Scholarly Achievement, the Exceptional Service Award and the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. Since the Spring 2020 in-person commencement ceremony was postponed to October and then later canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamoni-campus faculty gathered in the Shaw Amphitheatre on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 24, where Graceland President Patricia H. Draves and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jill Rhea presented the awards to this year’s recipients.
Assistant Professor of Allied Health James Geiselman was this year’s recipient for Excellence in Scholarly Achievement. Rhea presented him the award and said the following.
“Dr. Geiselman is a perfect example of a faculty member who is excited about research, and just as excited about getting students involved in that research. As noted in his nomination letter, ‘Dr. Geiselman's enthusiasm and ambition toward research and educational growth has been second to none.’ He grasps opportunities to give lectures and to publish journal articles, as well. While accomplishing all of that, he has managed to find the time to complete post-graduate training in the field of sports nutrition and sports chiropractic. Dr. Geiselman's commitment to collaborating with other professionals, publishing and presenting, in addition to his desire and passion to get students involved in research are why he deserves this accolade. Graceland proudly recognizes your scholarly achievements in presenting you with this award.”
Associate Professor of Business Max Pitt was the recipient of the Exceptional Service Award. Rhea said the following of Pitt:
“Max Pitt is the epitome of great service to Graceland, the community, and even other parts of the world. His giving goes far beyond the expectations of service for a typical faculty member. This heartfelt service is embodied in his contributions to the Ag Business Club, the Ag Advisory Board, managing Graceland’s test plot, the Community Development Club, Ag Business and FFA Day on campus, the Ag dinner and auction, receiving a combined $100,000 in grants, volunteering with the Kansas City Chiefs and so much more.
“I won’t expand on all of these, but I will just choose the Kansas City Chiefs project as one example. For every Chiefs home game, Max gathers students and other volunteers in a van and takes them to Kansas City where they spend eight hours pushing wheelchairs for patrons who need that service. In response, the Chiefs give approximately $20,000 per year to Graceland’s Community Development Fund. Those funds are then sent to Guatemala to build schools and buy computers for students. We’re fortunate to have you as an ambassador of Graceland, and we recognize your outstanding service.”
Assistant Professor of English Catherine Clifford was the recipient of the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. Each year, student voting determines the finalists for this award, and then the final decision on this prestigious honor is made by a committee of students and faculty. In addition to the framed certificate and apple award that is presented today, the Alumni Board provides $1,000 for professional development to the recipient of this award. Rhea shared the following about Clifford:
“Dr. Clifford has been a shining star on campus since her arrival in the fall of 2016. One of her students shared that ‘Dr. Clifford’s interest and dedication to her classes have made her one of the best teachers at Graceland.’ Obviously, this student is joined by many others in their thinking since last year was the third year in a row that Dr. Clifford was a finalist for this award. Dr. Clifford earned her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University and earned her master’s from Texas A&M University. She also received a masters with distinction and a PhD from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
“Dr. Clifford’s teaching goal is to call students to be active participants in their learning, and she does this by building connections with her students. Her students appreciate that connection, and as one student expressed it, ‘She has always shown a vested interest in helping all of her students succeed. She has encouraged, inspired and taught me much about myself as a student.’ Another student declared, ‘Dr. Clifford always encourages me to push my mind and my abilities to the extremes of everything I can accomplish.’ Please join me in congratulating Dr. Cat Clifford, this year’s recipient of the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.”
You can find the video of this awards presentation in the virtual commencement premiere video on Graceland's Facebook page and YouTube channel, and you can read about the full commencement ceremony here.