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spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer May 17, 1999

Eisenhart Award Profiles

Since 1965, RIT's Eisenhart Awards for Outstanding Teaching have honored and celebrated faculty excellence. The awards recognize RIT's multidisciplinary nature, granting up to four recipients in various programs. Winners are chosen through rigorous peer review of student nominations. This year, four professors will receive the awards during the academic convocation on Friday, May 21.

The Eisenhart family, for whom the awards are named, has a long history with RIT. The late M. Herbert Eisenhart, president and board chairman of Bausch & Lomb, was an RIT trustee for more than 50 years. Richard Eisenhart continues the RIT connection, serving on the board since 1972, as chairman for six years and now as trustee emeritus.

Roberly Bell, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences

Freshman year. An amazing time filled with opportunity, learning, questions and, oftentimes, confusion and doubt. It's a time when students try new things and test their limits as they try to figure out who they are and what they want to be. And, if they're lucky, they have someone like Roberley Bell there to help them along the way.

Bell, an associate professor in the foundations department, School of Art and School of Design, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, teaches 3-D design to freshmen--work she takes very seriously. "I feel I have a real responsibility since the freshman year is a threshold and a time of transition. A lot of things happen in that space. Students are finding out they're something they didn't know they were."

Bell spent her own freshman undergraduate year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After receiving her B.F.A., she went on to study at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and then on to the State University of New York, College of Ceramics at Alfred University. There she earned her M.F.A. in sculpture. Before arriving at RIT in 1993, she taught at Virginia Tech and State University in Blacksburg, Va. In 1990, she won a Fulbright to The Netherlands. Bell also has a lengthy and impressive exhibition resumé with an annual listing of national and local one-person and group exhibitions dating back to 1983.

In addition to her work with freshmen, she teaches graduate courses in installation art and public space/public art. This is an area that Bell, who has had numerous public and outdoor site projects, says she feels strongly about. "The public realm is very much about the ability to enhance the quality of people's lives. You try to impact a community in a positive way," she says.

She has certainly had a positive impact on the RIT community. "Her classes, which bring together art, crafts and photography students, provide an expanded awareness of the possibilities of fine art in contemporary society. Personal and social commentary take on new dimensions in her classes on public art and installations," says Tom Lightfoot, associate professor and chair of the School of Art.

Her students speak of her ability to rouse their spirits and awaken their creativity through her own enthusiasm. Alejandro Fernandez Veraud, a graduate student in the School for American Crafts' woodworking program, took Bell's public art class. "She's very energetic and expressive and she obviously has a deep knowledge of her subject," he says. "But more than that, she has an energy. She's the kind of person that when she speaks, she doesn't just say the words. She feels what she's saying. Others have the knowledge. She has the knowledge and the feeling."

Her public agrees that Bell is true to her teaching philosophy: "To nurture the attitude of learning and experimentation is the keystone to the vigor and success of later pursuits."

As commencement approaches, Bell sees students she taught four years ago prepare to meet the challenges of the real world. "It's wonderful to be a part of this process of nurturing who these people will become. I hope that they leave with a sense of who they are as an artist and designer. My hope is that, yes, they have the fundamental, formal skills, but that they also have developed for themselves a sense of how they can impact the world around them. That they have learned to put a global perspective on things."

Sophia Maggelakis, College of Science

Sophia Maggelakis makes mathematics sound like poetry. She speaks of the beauty of mathematical patterns, of math as the language that allows explanation of the cosmos.

"Math is one of the most profound expressions of human imagination," she says. "I see mathematics as art."

Her enthusiasm for a subject that is not universally popular began early. "I always liked math," says Maggelakis, associate professor in the mathematics and statistics department, College of Science. Growing up on the Greek isle of Crete, Maggelakis listened to teachers "who told me mathematics would give me a deep understanding of the world around us," and decided this was a discipline worth pursuing.

She came to the United States to visit an uncle at Virginia Beach, Va., and stayed to attend college. She received a B.S. in math with a minor in computer science, an M.S. and Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics, all from Old Dominion University in Virginia.

The idea of a teaching career didn't occur to her until she taught her first class while in graduate school. "I loved it," she recalls.

And she was good at it. "I feel Dr. Maggelakis has a special gift for the profession," one of her students told the Eisenhart Awards committee. "Many professors give the impression that it is important to do well to please them. Dr. Maggelakis gave me the impression that it is important to do well to please myself."

Rebecca Hill, head of mathematics and statistics, concurs. "She is serious about her teaching, is always well-prepared and strives to make her teaching interesting and relevant to her students," Hill says. "She receives rave reviews from her students who literally flock to her sections."

"All of us have seen some great professors in our lives," one member of the selection committee wrote. "But some are great by themselves and some help the students to be great later in life. The latter kind has the best rapport with the students, talks to them on an equal level and draws them up to a higher level . . . Sophia had this rapport."

One of the reasons behind her success as a teacher, Maggelakis believes, is her research. "Doing research keeps me closer to my students and helps me understand their frustrations and struggles, because it reminds me how difficult it is to learn and apply a new concept."

Maggelakis' research area is mathematical biology, "one of the fastest growing, most exciting areas of mathematics." She is involved in modeling of cell growth in such areas as tumor growth, wound healing and capillary growth. Maggelakis has published numerous papers in this area, and typically gives one or more presentations each year at professional meetings.

"It's a great misconception that mathematics is the same, year after year," she says, "but there is an ongoing need to discover new techniques and new analytical methods for solving problems." The conferences offer the opportunity to learn about the latest research and new directions in the field. "I come back all excited, and I find that excitement transfers to the classroom."

Each summer, she leaves her computer behind for a visit to her family in her beloved Crete. For a month or so, she walks the rocky beach by her home and is renewed. "I'm forced to relax, and come back to RIT ready to take on new challenges."

James Mallory, National Technical Institute for the Deaf

It's a gift Jim Mallory didn't even know he had. Becoming a teacher never entered his mind as he jetted all over the country as a project engineer for Mobil Chemical. Little did he know the tremendous impact he would have on so many young lives when he made the tough decision to leave corporate life to teach computer technology and engineering at NTID
17 years ago.

"He's an NTID treasure," says Donald Beil, professor in applied computer technology. "Again and again, and even again, I've watched in awe as Jim Mallory pursues self-developed goals for improving instruction or enhancing student learning; in that regard, he's the most persistent faculty member that I've ever met. He knows where he wants to go with students and will not take "no" for an answer, as he always succeeds in getting there."

Mallory wholeheartedly embraces the constantly changing technologies, making sure he and his students are always up to date.

"I've learned so many new things and feel he is the best programmer teacher," says Mallory's student, Donald Barrios Jr. "He knows many different programs! That's amazing!"

"Keeping up with technology is exciting and challenging, because it changes at light speed," says Mallory, who has authored and copyrighted software and publications on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to distance learning instruction to general trends in technology.

Mallory feels his peer interactions are as important as the books he reads or the technical conferences he attends. "I've been blessed to be surrounded by very dedicated, committed, and competent professionals. I've learned much from them."

His philosophy on teaching is simple: Know what it takes to communicate effectively with each student, and set high standards.

"If you expect a lot, you get a lot," states Mallory, who practices an open-door philosophy online with his students who need help outside of the classroom.

"Jim always gives the students positive experiences and feedback. He is always willing to sit and discuss their needs and how to help with their coursework," says colleague Vern Davis, an NTID counselor.

Mallory says he motivates his students by conveying his enthusiasm and passion for acquiring and sharing cutting edge technical information. But, he believes, "Knowledge is not power. It becomes power only when it is organized into definite plans of action. In addition, we as teachers need to let students make their own mistakes, and let them know that this is okay, so they can learn without stifling their creativity."

Mallory, who has spearheaded the distance learning initiatives at NTID, is excited about reaching deaf students of all ages around the globe through distance learning technology. "We've just scratched the surface with our potential in distance learning," he says.

He holds an M.S. in computer science and B.S. in electrical engineering technology, both from RIT. He has earned several grants,honors and awards for his innovations in education and his dedication to improving education.

Mallory's student support surpasses academics. He has worked with student organizations since he first joined RIT, including as a trainer for the Outdoor Experiential Education Student Leaders, faculty advisor for the RIT cross country ski team and the NTID Engineering Club, as well as coach of the Western N.Y. Empire Games kayak team.

Ken Reek, College of Applied Science and Technology

eisenhart Ken Reek
Striking images of New England, the Adirondacks and the American Southwest line the walls of Ken Reek's office in the Lewis P. Ross Building.

The black-and-white and color photos are vivid reminders of what brought Reek to RIT. The computer science professor came to RIT in 1971 to study professional photography. Indeed, he received an A.A.S. degree.

"But after two years, I found I was spending all my time in the computer room," says Reek. So he stayed at RIT, receiving first an undergraduate and, in 1978, a master's degree from the fledgling computer science department.

"Things were very different then," says Reek. Computers were bulky, exotic and expensive, and few people had the foresight to predict that these devices would evolve into ubiquitous household appliances. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had yet to make their marks--and their millions.

But Reek decided his future was in computers. He did a
co-op at a Penfield company called Western New York Computing Systems, and stayed on, ultimately becoming vice president. While working
on his master's, Reek taught his first class and began a new career as a teacher.

"Organization is the key" to effective teaching, he believes. He provides students with an orderly framework, which helps keep them focused on the subject matter. Reek continually assesses what works and reflects upon what doesn't, making adjustments as needed. And he constantly strives to stay up to date--a challenge in the rapidly evolving computer world, but absolutely essential to keeping coursework relevant to students.

"He's brilliant," says Danielle Bessette, a computer science graduate student who took Reek's C for C++ Programmers course. "He teaches what you need to know, but he takes
it a step further and tells you the really cool stuff. His book (Pointers on C) is great. I use
it for references on everything."

Bruce Morton, a fourth-year computer science student, concurs. "I've attended Bucknell, Fisher, MCC and RIT," says Morton, "and Ken is without a doubt the finest teacher I've ever had. He is a rarity in the computer science field, in that he's not only a brilliant programmer, but also a master of the English language. This is my last quarter at RIT, and I'm taking three other computer classes and physics, but I'm auditing Ken's C for C++ Programmers course this quarter. The sole reason I'm doing this is because I admire his teaching."

Besides teaching, Reek is an Internet entrepreneur. He's developed two shareware programs: a word game called Crypto! and a program called PC-TimeClock that tracks how you spend your time on your computer (check out www.KMRConsulting.com).

"The purpose of doing this is to get experience I can bring back to the classroom," says Reek. Developing products is an exercise in computer science techniques, but also touches on marketing, customer relations and other real-world issues Reek can use in teaching.
The computer science department colleague who knows Reek best is his wife, Margaret Reek, also an Eisenhart winner. "I felt sort of bad when I got it before he did," she admits, "because in some ways, I think he's a better teacher than I am. He's always extremely well prepared, and he has a great depth of knowledge. And he's always very enthusiastic." They're the first husband-wife team to win.

"I don't think I'm unusual in what I do," Ken Reek says modestly. "The nature of RIT
is focused on teaching, and I really like that.
I hope we don't ever lose that."


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