Outstanding faculty award recipients excell in community service

The three 1998 Tennessee Technological University Outstanding Faculty Awards recipients have more in common than just winning an award Ñ they all reach beyond the university to the community with their service and talents.

The university recently named Dan Fesler and Brian O'Connor recipients of Tennessee Tech's Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Jeff Roberts received the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service. All three were recognized for their achievements and received a plaque and $1,500 honorarium during Tennessee Tech's spring commencement.


Dan Fesler

Fesler, an associate professor of accounting and law, juggles a heavy teaching load with a number of extra activities. He took on the responsibility of developing and administering Tennessee Tech's accounting & law CPA review program for alumni, and he also handles the department's internship program.

Recognized as the 1993-94 College of Business Administration Outstanding Teacher, Fesler makes sure his accounting expertise is mixed with the right dose of humor. Assistant accounting professor Richard Rand works next door to Fesler, and described him in action.

"He tempers his no-nonsense honesty with a keen sense of humor and a caring nature that endears him to the students," said Rand. "He watches over them. He pushes them to achieve greater heights. He encourages them to attempt challenging endeavors."

Former student Sissy Vick considered herself fortunate to have taken Fesler's accounting classes.

"He never told us accounting was easy," said Vick. "He encouraged us to study. In fact, he would jokingly tell us that when he was studying for a degree in accounting, he would sleep with his intermediate accounting book under his pillow to try to soak up some knowledge during the night. His humor sure made the class fun. Students need that."

Fesler, who joined the faculty in 1987, is the author of 17 articles published in such scholarly journals as the National Public Accountant and The CPA Journal.


Brian O'Connor

O'Connor, an associate professor of mathematics, is a two-time winner of the Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching, having received his first award in 1985.

"Through the years, I have had many reports of his creative genius, his wit and humor, and his incredible storehouse of information and details," said English professor Connie Hood.

In part, it has been that storehouse of information that has made O'Connor an excellent ambassador for the university, she said. O'Connor is a regular volunteer for high school science and academic bowls, and the result of that work, said Hood, is that "students testify to his patience, kindness and clarity both in and out of the classroom."

One of those students, junior Jennifer Vaughn, admitted that calculus wasn't one of her favorite subjects ... until, that is, she signed up for O'Connor's Calculus II section.

"I will always remember all of the quirky things he added to the classroom experience -- whether it be interjecting fun little puzzles and trivia that made us see mathematics in a whole different way, or doing something as crazy as wearing T-shirts with trigonometric functions on them to help us remember important concepts."


Jeff Roberts

Roberts, an associate professor of history, has served as a form of ombudsman for Tennessee Tech faculty in the past two years as president of the university's chapter of the American Association of College Professors and a faculty senate representative on the university's Budget Advisory Committee.

Roberts' academic expertise has lent itself to community outreach activities, too. In years past, he has readily provided analysis on breaking news stories, including the Iraq situation for WSM radio listeners, and other political issues for local radio and television stations. And that's not counting his work with community groups, said assistant history professor Peter Field.

"Somehow, he has crammed into a few years in Cookeville, Toastmasters, Rotary Club, United Way, Lazarus House Hospice and Leadership Putnam," Field said. "It seems to me that Jeff must be busy for lunch for the next decade. Virtually everyone in Cookeville admires the work he does, which in turn redounds to the credit of the department and the university as a whole."

Roberts is also a favorite among students. He is a previous winner of the Outstanding Honors Faculty Award, a Panhellenic Council Faculty Member of the Year, and he has won a certificate of joint recognition from Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa for the promotion of academic excellence.