Ellen Davis, the Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, received the 2010 Duke University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award from President Richard Brodhead at the annual Founders’ Day Convocation in Duke Chapel at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30.
“In an institution with many remarkably talented teachers and scholars, Dr. Davis stands out as extraordinary,” said Brodhead. “As a scholar, she has been ahead of her time in advancing scholarship at the intersections between Old Testament and other areas within Christian theological studies, and, importantly, between biblical and theological studies and fields such as environmental studies.”
As a teacher, Davis is demanding and popular. “Students who take her Introduction to Old Testament course in their first semester are often still talking about it and drawing upon it three years later, and it is not uncommon for these students to rush to sign up for courses in biblical Hebrew,” said Brodhead.
“Her love of language and her close reading of texts inspire an enthusiasm that students carry beyond her classes into others, and even into pursuits outside the University. Indeed, she has so inspired some of her students that they have followed her to southern Sudan to teach each summer and, even more, to aid the Sudanese in the construction of a seminary and health clinic in the town of Renk.”
In addition to her usual teaching and her extracurricular trips to Sudan, Brodhead noted that Davis has served for the past three years as associate dean for faculty development and been an exemplary mentor for younger faculty. “She is also quick to take on work within the wider University,” he added. “She has devoted significant time and energy to fostering interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims on Duke’s campus, as well as internationally.”
The University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award was established in 1981 by the Division of Higher Education of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church in recognition that colleges and universities draw their strength and vitality from their faculties.
Founders’ Day celebrates the founding of the university and provides an opportunity each year for the university to reflect on its history and heritage and to recognize major contributions by students, faculty, administrators, employees, and alumni.
Other honorees included Robert King Steel, trustee emeritus and currently New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development; Jean Fox O’Barr, professor emeritus of education; and Harold L. “Spike” Yoh Jr., trustee emeritus and former chair of the Board of Trustees. Steel, who delivered the convocation address, and O’Barr both received the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service, one of the university’s highest awards. Yoh received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
This occasion marked the 109th anniversary of the first event honoring the Duke family at this institution. In 1901, when the school was Trinity College, the school held a Benefactors’ Day to pay tribute to university namesake Washington Duke.