University Honors Excellence

August 8, 2010

University Honors Excellence

VALDOSTA -- At convocation Monday, Aug. 9, the Valdosta State University community recognized five of its members with Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards in honor of their outstanding professional contributions.

A faculty committee representative of all VSU colleges and divisions named four excellence award winners from a host of colleagues who have received top honors in professional activity, service, and teaching. A cross-sectional committee also selected the Excellence in Service for Classified Staff Award recipient.

Excellence in Professional Activity Awards: Dr. William James Loughry, Department of Biology

Dr. William James Loughry, professor of animal behavior, has produced 46 publications and served as a reviewer for 22 journals. The leading expert on the nine-banded armadillo has been awarded grants totaling nearly $59,000. Often working with his colleague and wife, Dr. Colleen McDonough, Loughry has been invited to speak about the pervasive species at two international symposia -- one at Mendoza, Argentina, and another in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Loughry, who began teaching at VSU in 1991, has participated in extensive research about bats and squirrels; but since the mid-1990s, he has focused his efforts on the ecology and behavior of the nine-banded armadillo -- a species that has colonized most of the southeastern United States in less than 200 years. Loughry has authored 32 publications about the insectivores, often collaborating with colleagues throughout the world. His latest book, which is still in press, explores the species’ microsatellite markers of leprosy.

Excellence in Advising Award: Dr. Byron Brown, Department of English

Colleagues know Dr. Byron Brown for his works about Edgar Allen Poe and composition theory, but students appreciate the professor of English for his thoughtful, thorough advising. Nomination letters mentioned that Brown’s commitment to advising equals his dedication to research and teaching. Brown likens mentoring students to the often underappreciated work done behind the scenes.

“Like handymen and housekeepers, academic advisors perform obscure, inglorious tasks. To the casual observer, they are nearly invisible, working quietly and, for the most part, out of sight,” said Byron, the former co-editor of Notes on Teaching. “But as any homeowner with a dripping faucet or stopped shower can attest, mundane tasks often possess a value inversely proportional to their visibility or glamour. Departmental advising is no exception.”

His advisees have said that Brown’s sincerity and organization has helped them navigate through the sometimes overwhelming task of mapping out the future. Brown works to establish trust with his students by engaging in frequent communication and keeping up to date with the latest course requirements.

Excellence in Service Award: H. Duke Guthrie, Department of Communication Arts

Associate Professor Duke Guthrie wears many hats. He teaches theatre management, voice and diction, and portfolio and resume presentation for the Theatre and Dance Area; he serves as managing director of Peach State Summer Theatre, a professional extension of the VSU Theatre Program; and serves on a variety of regional and national boards and conferences. As one colleague stated in a recommendation letter, “Duke is a colleague who can be counted on. He will be the first person to arrive, the last person to leave, and the one who will carry the heaviest box to the car when it is time to load up for a trip.”

Guthrie, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre from VSU, was instrumental in establishing biennial professional connections trips for theater students. The trips to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles offer networking opportunities and expose students to audition master classes, backstage tours and dance rehearsals.

“I understand the value of the rigorous education I received here and the opportunities that education provided me,” said Guthrie, who joined the VSU faculty in 1999. “My work and service efforts are focused on building upon my experiences as a student here and providing current and future students and our audiences the best learning and entertainment experiences in a professional manner.”

Guthrie, who previously worked for a theatrical general management firm in New York, was absent from convocation on account of his performance in Edinburgh, Scotland, with colleague and a previous Faculty Excellence Award winner Catherine Schaeffer. The two are performing a multimedia dance “Soul Descending” at the world’s largest arts festival -- Edinburgh Festival Fringe, held Aug. 6-31. Read more about their performance at .

Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Lai Orenduff, Department of Art

Dr. Lai Orenduff believes teaching should encourage students to grow intellectually, emotionally, creatively, socially, ethically, and spiritually. The associate professor of art said she enjoys the process of introducing students “to the diversity of the world.” Her students appreciate her progressive outlook.

“Each work was a new discovery waiting to be unearthed further,” one student wrote in a nomination letter. “There was no subtext of ‘I’ve already done this a thousand times and am bored with it.’ She made learning exciting again.”

Her colleagues agree that Orenduff, who specializes in modern art, holds a true passion for her craft and sharing that enthusiasm with others.

“This passion is contagious and it spreads in her classes from the first moment her students meet with her,” a colleague writes. “It inspires her students, motivates them for success, and models for them an outstanding professional behavior which applied to any field of human endeavor is sure to bring excellent results.”

Excellence in Service for Classified Staff Award: Sharon Butcher, Campus Mail Services

As manager of manager of Campus Mail Services, Sharon Butcher is dedicated to ensuring the upmost service so that students and professionals may achieve their goals. She received more than seven letters of nomination and support for recognition of her customer service, strong leadership, and commitment to surpass basic job expectations.

Butcher has woven herself into the fabric of VSU as part of the Council on Staff Affairs (COSA). During the past five years, Butcher has held the position of treasurer, public relations officer, chair elect and chair. Even after her COSA term expired, she has continued to be regarded as one of the organization’s most active volunteers.

“Sharon exemplifies the quality of an outstanding dedicated leader, who possesses personal integrity,” one colleague wrote. “I have often admired her spirit in volunteering and her poise, no matter how demanding or pressing the situation. Sharon is an inspiration for her staff and for VSU in her dedication to VSU.”