Five Faculty Members Honored with Teaching Awards at Class & Charter Day

Hamilton College's highest awards for teaching were presented on May 4 to five faculty members. Chemistry Professor Robin Kinnel was awarded the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching; Assistant Professor of Sociology Yvonne Zylan received the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award; Assistant Professor of Biology Mike McCormick was awarded the Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award; Professor of Music Lydia Hamessley received the Class of 1962 Excellence in Teaching Award; and Professor of Economics James Bradfield received the Sidney Wertimer Award.  They were honored during the college's Class & Charter Day celebration, an annual convocation recognizing student and faculty excellence during the preceding academic year.

Robin Kinnel, the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching
Robin Kinnel, the Silas D. Childs Professor of Chemistry, is the seventh recipient of the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is given annually to a senior, tenured faculty member. It is presented on the basis of superior teaching and for having a significant and positive impact on students. The fund was established by Helen Lang, the mother of Michael C. Lang, class of 1967.

Kinnel's primary focus at Hamilton has been on research and teaching in organic chemistry. His current research involves the extraction of natural products from marine invertebrates, including antibiotic, anticarcinogenic and immunosuppressive compounds. He has also focused on the study of various New York asters, and the role of germacrene D on settling and herbivory of predator butterflies among the asters. A third facet to Kinnel's research involves the study of the biosynthesis of bromoallenic acetogenins in red algae. Kinnel has published numerous articles, most recently in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical Society and the Journal of Chemical Ecology. In 2003 he was awarded a $238,357 National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Grant, "Acquisition of a High Field NMR for Chemistry Research," for 2004-2007. Kinnel earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A student who nominated Kinnel for the award wrote "I believe he truly understands what learning is about, and that is a rare gift." Another commented, "His class is emblematic of the great student-teacher interactions that are characteristic of small liberal arts colleges," and another said, "I've never seen anyone so dedicated to his work or his students. He is the best professor at Hamilton. Kinnel is the man."

Yvonne Zylan, The John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award
Yvonne Zylan, assistant professor of sociology, earned a Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and a juris doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law. She has published articles in Gender & Society, Social Forces, American Journal of Sociology and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Her areas of scholarship include law and society, sociology of gender, the state and social policy and political sociology. After being admitted to the California bar, she practiced law for three years in the litigation department at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, an international business law firm.

In nominating Zylan one student wrote "She is one of my favorite professors. I think her style is engaging and her discussion and lectures are well-organized and thought-provoking." Another called her "a very effective teacher of concepts. She explains and relates things very well." A third student described Zylan as "one of Hamilton's best – so captivating."

The John R. Hatch Class of 1925 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1998 by Alfrederic S. Hatch, a 1958 Hamilton graduate, in memory of his father, who graduated from Hamilton in 1925. It supports an annual prize for a tenure-track faculty member who has been employed by the college for fewer than five years, and who has demonstrated superior teaching, high-quality scholarly research and a significant and positive impact on students.

Mike McCormick, The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award
Mike McCormick joined the Biology Department in 2002 with a shared teaching commitment in geology. His research interests lie in geomicrobiology and the influence that cell/mineral interactions have on the transformation of environmental contaminants. He completed a Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship in Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan.

McCormick recently published a research article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology demonstrating that minerals produced by bacteria can play a major role in the degradation of common ground water pollutants. In 2006 he received a $27,000 Small Grant for Exploratory Research from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs with his collaborators, Professor of Geosciences Eugene Domack and Professor of Biology Jinnie Garrett. The project, titled "Geologic Constraints on Life in an Antarctic Sub-ice-shelf Environment," will pursue the first geochemical and microbial characterization of a novel ecosystem discovered by Domack in 2005.

In 2004 McCormick and Professor of Chemistry Tim Elgren received a grant from the NSF's Major Research Instrumentation program to support the acquisition of a Raman Microscope. This instrument is being used to support the geo-microbiology research activities in McCormick's lab and bio-inorganic studies in Elgren's lab.

A student nominator wrote of McCormick, "He understands teaching is multi-faceted and never stops trying to help you. He should teach a teaching course." Another said he "does an excellent job of communicating," and a third called him "a great professor, very knowledgeable, very effective." 

The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1988 to recognize one Hamilton faculty member each year who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to teaching.

Lydia Hamessley, the Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award
Lydia Hamessley received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota before coming to Hamilton in 1991. She teaches courses in Medieval and Renaissance music history, world music, American folk and traditional music and opera, and she was awarded a Kirkland Endowment Grant from Hamilton to develop courses about or concerned with women. Her current area of research is in old-time and bluegrass music, with a particular focus on Southern Appalachian music and women.

Hamessley has published articles in Music & Letters, Queering The Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology, Menacing Virgins: Images of Virginity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. In 2007 she published a chapter, "Peggy Seeger: From Traditional Folksinger to Contemporary Songwriter," in Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds: Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth-Century American Music. (University of Rochester Press, 2007). She is the co-editor, with Elaine Barkin, of Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music.

A student who nominated Hamessley called her "an incredible teacher." Another described her as "a very effective teacher, passionate about the subject." A third wrote "She encouraged us to think outside the box and in doing so I gained a much more in-depth experience and knowledge."

This award was established in 1987 by members of the class of 1962 on the occasion of their 25th reunion. This is awarded every five years to an outstanding tenured faculty member in recognition of distinguished teaching. 

James Bradfield, The Sidney Wertimer Award
James Bradfield, the Elias W. Leavenworth Professor of Economics, earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Rochester. He is a lecturer on financial markets, microeconomic theory, and mathematical economics.

Hamilton's Student Assembly initiated the Wertimer Award in 2005 in memory of the late Sidney Wertimer, professor of economics, emeritus, who died in February, 2005. The award recognizes a faculty member "who is recognized as a mentor and active participant within the Hamilton community."

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