Every year, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences honors excellence, recognizing those that have embodied success as practitioners or in teaching in the halls of academia. This year, the College of recognized Professor of Philosophy Frank Fair and former County Judge Frank Robinson. Appropriately, the evening was marked by warmth, camaraderie, and even inspiration, fitting qualities for the humanities fields.
Dean Zink opened the event…
…and Chris Tritico MC’d the event, introducing speakers for both of this year’s recipients.
Fair, the faculty recipient of this year’s award, is only the eighth faculty to be recognized by the college, joining Dr. Caroline Crim, Dr. Richard Cording, Dr. Mattie Medford, Dr. James Olson, Dr. John Holcombe, Dr. Joseph Clark, and Dr. Walter Bennett. After joining the faculty in 1971, quickly made an impact, being involved in the community and in creating new programs at SHSU. He was instrumental in establishing the college’s teaching conference, was active in the Honors College, the Writing Across the Disciplines program, and in Academic Challenge. Fair also brought the journal Inquiry to SHSU, promoting research on philosophical inquiries and the promotion of critical thinking among SHSU students. (As prospective law students, this caught our attention!) His efforts, deservedly, led to him being awarded with the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1989 and the Excellence in Service Award in 1992. In 2011, he was given the Piper Teaching Award, a recognition given to only ten faculty members across the state.
Amidst the sweep of this forty-five year career, CHSS Alumni Advisory Board member Paula Lenz offered an up-close-and-personal view of Fair. With a voice that at times cracked, Lenz noted the impact that Fair had on her life and the way in which she saw the world. Although Lenz majored in English, she took Fair’s philosophical lessons with her, helping her in a successful career as the Director of the North Houston Association.
Dick Eglsaer, the Vice Provost at SHSU, also spoke on behalf of Fair. While calling himself an “old-timer,” he noted that he was nowhere near as old as Fair, a comment that got a few chuckles, including a laugh from the Fairs…
The Marketing Department at SHSU also did a nice video for Dr. Fair…
…which included discussions from Fair’s peers, such as Dr. Gillespie and Dr. Botero, the latter of whom learned to drive from Dr. Fair.
Over dinner, Fair had a chance at his “rebuttal,” and his ten-minute speech illuminated the many qualities that had previously been identified by his peers.
His passion for teaching, his concern for students, his gratitude to work at a fine institution with excellent peers, and even in his 70s, an enthusiasm for what teaching will bring in the future.
Throughout both his speech and the speeches about him, his wife, Janet, was mentioned repeatedly. Following a long career as a teacher at HISD, she now works for SHSU as a mentor and, like Frank, is a leader in the community.
To young political science majors (and one lonely accounting major), it’s inspiring to us as SHSU Ambassadors to see a faculty member who has accomplished so much, impacted so many lives, and maintained the zest for continued service, and we were pleased to meet and congratulate him following the dinner.
Service was also the theme of the CHSS’s recognition of Judge Frank Robinson. Born in 1916, Robinson lived to almost 100, passing just last year. His life of service was attested to by an impressive group of speakers, including former Mayor Jane Monday…
Reverend Willett, Commissioner BJ Gaines, and Robinson’s daughter, who gave a truly moving speech that touched on Robinson’s role as family patriarch…
… community servant, and elected official.
Robinson served two terms as County Judge, was President of Rotary, a Distinguished SHSU Alum, and an active member of the First United Methodist Church. In fact, when the LEAP Ambassadors did a community “then-and-now” photograph of the church in 2012, Robinson was selected to stand (actually, sit) front and center for the outdoor photograph.
Although our role in the CHSS event was in a minor support capacity, we were thrilled to volunteer. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to see role models, to meet others who are active in the College, and to spend time with some really nice people. Chris Tritico, a Houston attorney and SHSU alum, was not only the MC of the event and the dinner…
…but he introduced himself to us, and offered advice and support.
We finally had a chance to meet Dan Beto, for whom we’ve long been grateful but not ever actually met. Beto is a member of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Foundation, and when he cannot attend some of their events, he sends us his invitations. Partially because of his generosity, we’ve seen people such as George H. W. Bush, Stephen Hawking, Bob Gates, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Ken Burns, and Bud Philbrook. It was fun putting a name with an invitation!
It’s always nice to see the Woodwards, who have been huge supporters of CHSS. Judge Robinson was once selected as Citizen of the Year by the Huntsville Item. Mac Woodward was nominated for this award this year, and we hope that he wins it this Thursday (Good luck, Mac!)
We always enjoy spending time with the current County Judge, Danny Pierce, and his wife, Cindy. Amidst this group, it’s likely that you’ll not only hear about service, but you’ll actually see it in action. This time was no exception. At the end of the Wall of Honor service, for example, we got to see Judge Pierce help WWII veteran Jerry Nemec to the golf cart. We’ve never actually met Mr. Nemec, but we volunteer a lot at the HEARTS Veterans Museum, and we know about his service to the community and the nation.
As part of its Mission Statement, the CHSS promotes “personal growth, competent professionalism, and responsible citizenship” and Dr. Fair and Judge Robinson–along with the many nice attendees–did a great job of embodying those qualities and illuminating the importance that humanities plays inside and outside of the classroom.
Dr. Abbey Zink is the Dean of CHSS. Her staff, Brenda McNeely, Christine Reeder and Deanna Briones did a great job of putting this event on. The CHSS Alumni Advisory Board helps oversee the nominations process and they vote to select the honorees. It was an honor to assist with this event.