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Three professors honored with College's highest faculty awards

Professors Timo Ovaska, Simon Feldman and Robert Askins pose with President Leo I. Higdon Jr.
Professors Timo Ovaska, Simon Feldman and Robert Askins pose with President Leo I. Higdon Jr.

Connecticut College professors Timo Ovaska, Simon Feldman and Robert Askins have been honored with the institution's most prestigious faculty awards. The annual honors, presented at a May 3 award ceremony, recognize faculty excellence in research, teaching and leadership.

2010 Nancy Batson Nisbet Rash Faculty Research Award

Timo Ovaska, the Hans and Ella McCollum '21 Vahlteich Professor of Chemistry at Connecticut College, is the recipient of the 2010 Nancy Batson Nisbet Rash Faculty Research Award, presented annually to a faculty member selected on the basis of outstanding scholarly or artistic accomplishments.

Ovaska specializes in organic chemistry. His research focuses on organic synthesis, a process that allows chemists to prepare complex materials in rational fashion from simple precursors. Specifically, he is interested in the development of novel methods and strategies for the preparation of complex polycyclic ring systems that may have medicinal benefits.

In a nomination letter, a colleague of Ovaska's wrote that he has "produced an excellent record of research not only because he is a highly intelligent and creative organic chemist but also because he is an extremely hard working, dedicated and highly effective research mentor to undergraduates."

Since joining the faculty at Connecticut College in 1990, Ovaska has authored or co-authored 23 research articles in peer-reviewed journals, presented at nearly 50 national and international venues and provided opportunities for dozens of students to participate in research and present at regional and national conferences and symposia.

John S. King Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Simon Feldman is the recipient of the 2010 John S. King Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, established to recognize teacher-scholars with high standards of teaching excellence and concern for students.

An expert in ethics, moral psychology, feminist philosophy and the philosophy of law, Feldman regularly teaches courses that explore questions about the relationship between the self and the larger community of persons and the ways in which our self-understandings and affinities for others shape and reflect our values.

Dean of the Faculty Roger Brooks, who presented the award, said Feldman has great enthusiasm for teaching. "In his own statement of teaching philosophy, Professor Feldman states, 'I love philosophy and so my philosophy of teaching philosophy can be summed up simply: I want my students to love it too,'" Brooks said.

The professor who nominated Feldman for the award called him "a natural" in the classroom and praised his ability to "shift from lecture to discussion and back again with an impeccable sense of timing."

2010 Helen Brooks Regan Faculty Leadership Award

Biology Professor Robert Askins is the recipient of the 2010 Helen Brooks Regan Faculty Leadership Award, presented annually to a tenured faculty member whose outstanding service in a leadership role exemplifies the College's commitment to shared governance, democratic process and campus community development.

Since joining the Connecticut College faculty in 1981, Askins has served the college in a number of administrative roles. He has been chair of the biology department, served as acting chair of East Asian Languages and Cultures and directed the College's Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment for 11 years, initiating a new student certificate program, securing outside funding for the center and organizing five major conferences.

One colleague said of Askins, "Bob is one of the hardest working faculty members on campus, and one of the last who would ask for recognition of his efforts."

Askins, who specializes in ornithology and ecology, is nationally recognized for his research of the ecology of migratory birds and the impact of forest fragmentation on their populations. In addition to his service on campus, he has served his discipline and the community on the boards of Audubon Connecticut, The Nature Conservancy, the Science Center of Eastern Connecticut and the American Ornithologist Union, among many others.

-Amy Martin

May 25, 2010