Biernacki, LeBorne and Hermann named this year's Outstanding Faculty

Students and colleagues of Tennessee Tech University’s 2008 Outstanding Faculty Awards say the three are the tightrope walkers of their fields, displaying incredible balance in their teaching, research and service.

Joseph Biernacki, professor of chemical engineering, and Richard LeBorne, associate professor of mathematics, have been named the recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Joseph Hermann, professor of music and director of bands at TTU, has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.

The three award winners will receive cash prizes and plaques during TTU’s spring commencement ceremonies on May 3.

Joseph Biernacki

Biernacki’s wide range of accomplishments include developing a state-of-the-art microscopy facility at the College of Engineering, enhancing students’ critical thinking skills and contributing to interdisciplinary teaching approaches.

Pedro Arce, professor and chairperson of TTU’s chemical engineering department, describes Biernacki’s development of the microscopy facility as “nothing less than exemplary.”

“I believe that efforts such as this are nothing short of pioneering and deserving of the highest distinction and recognition,” he said in his letter nominating Biernacki for the award.

Student Braxton Sluder says of Biernacki’s ability to enhance critical thinking skills in the classroom, “He has always brought a sense of the real world into the classroom with much practical advice and instruction.”

Glen Johnson, professor of mechanical engineering, said, “If I had to identify Joe’s most unique strength, I would have to say that it is his ability to make critical contributions to interdisciplinary teaching activities.

“Joe’s success as a facilitator of learning for such a wide range of students marks him as special, and in my view, it is this characteristic that makes him especially worthy for this year’s TTU Outstanding Faculty Award,” Johnson concluded.

Richard LeBorne

Although he teaches mathematics at TTU, LeBorne’s students might best describe him as an adviser for solving problems, says Alan Mills, interim chairperson of TTU’s mathematics department.

“Rather than working out an example of each type of problem the students will be asked to solve, Rick works fewer examples and focuses the attention of the students on how to solve problems,” he said in his letter nominating LeBorne for the award. “In particular, Rick wants his students to be able to solve not only routine mathematics problems from a textbook, but also problems that are not set up in that predictable format.”

Student Thomas Cody West says LeBorne “genuinely cares about his students and does his best to help them succeed both in his class and in life after school.”

Colleague Tommy Elliot describes him as a mentor and an inspiration who has helped to show him that education is a building process. “Over the years, he has shown me this goes beyond the math class. This is true in other fields of study, and moreover, life itself. I strive to bring this to my students into my own teaching, but I am still not completely there yet.”

Student Zachary McDaniel describes LeBorne as “not your ordinary teacher — he is something far greater. He focuses on the knowledge and understanding, not the answer.

“In many ways, Dr. Richard LeBorne is revolutionary, and in many ways, our education is in need of a revolution,” he concluded.

Joseph Hermann

Having been elected as an officer of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, a five-year obligation, Hermann is professionally respected as a quality conductor and music instructor.

But perhaps most memorable is his friendship, says Eric Harris, TTU associate director of bands. “Prior to our working together, I had heard his name mentioned many times as one of the top wind conductors and music educators in the country. It seems that everyone who has ever come in contact with Joe Hermann considers him a friend,” Harris wrote in his recommendation letter.

In addition to serving his field in the ABA, Hermann hosts the annual Festival of Winds and Percussion at TTU to recruit talented music students, served for 13 years as conductor of the American Legion Boys’ State band and been involved with the Southeast Chamber Music Institute.

“Because of the respect his colleagues have for him, he is now one of the most influential band directors in North America,” said William J. Moody, secretary-treasurer of the ABA.

Colleague R. Winston Morris, TTU’s tuba professor, points out Hermann’s influence in the quality of the university’s band program. “The consistent observation of objective ‘outsiders’ is that the Tech band program is competitive with any band program to be found at any institution of higher learning anywhere in the United States.

“The quality of his professional work and judgment, as well as his willingness to give of himself, are indisputable factors in the ultimate success that he has attained. TTU and the department of music and art could not be better served by any individual,” Morris concluded.

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