Willamette Celebrates 161 Years

Willamette University Lee Pelton reported on the health of the University and presented outstanding teaching awards Monday, Feb. 3, during the schools 161st Founders Day celebration.

Pelton told a capacity crowd in Hudson Hall that the University is making steady progress toward several key goals. The academic profiles of incoming first year students continue to improve as does the level of diversity on the campus. When Pelton arrived at the University in 1998, 12 percent of the student body self-identified as students of color. Last fall, the total was 20 percent.

Throughout his address, the Willamette president focused on the theme of excellence and how that value plays out everyday on the Salem campus. He said "Willamette University recognizes that 'excellence' lies in the hearts and minds of those who work in the classrooms every day--those who spend their days developing coursework, delivering lectures, grading papers, writing letters of recommendation, attending concerts and athletic events, organizing conferences and symposia--professors who focus on the flowering of the individual students-- professors who, ultimately, lead Willamette students to their futures."

Pelton included in his State of the University Address remarks about the University of Michigan affirmative action lawsuit scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Pelton said, "White students have challenged the University of Michigan's use of race in the admission process, calling into question the use of so called affirmative action measures to achieve racial and ethnic diversity in student enrollments.

"In my view, this is the most important civil rights legal case involving race and education since the landmark 1950 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education. The outcome has the capacity to shape for many generations to come the nation's commitment to social justice and equality."

Following his remarks was a series of student performances featuring Adrienne Davich, Ian Scarfe, Robin Ricard, Eoulia Pannas, Dan Esqueda and John Englund.

Receiving outstanding teaching and scholarship awards were:

  • Richard J. Ellis, Hatfield Professor of Politics, the Lawrence D. Cress Award for Excellence in Faculty Scholarship;
  • Donald H. Negri, professor of economics, the United Methodist Award for Service to the University and the Community;
  • Linda G. Tamura, professor of education, the United Methodist Award for Service to the University and the Community;
  • William T. Smaldone, professor of history, the Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching;
  • Patrick E. Connor, professor of organization theory and behavior, the Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching;
  • Jeffrey A. Standen, professor of law, the Robert L. Misner Award for Faculty Scholarship;
  • David Gutterman, assistant professor of politics, the Mortar Board Professor of the Year Award; and
  • Suzanne J. Kersh, administrative assistant in theatre, the Classified Employee of the Year Award.
  • Bob Jones, a teacher at West Salem High School, received the Secondary School Excellence in Teaching Award.