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Aug. 30, 2015
Northwest Missouri State University honored five “high impact” faculty during a special ceremony Wednesday in conjunction with the University’s opening meetings.
Northwest honored Dr. Loren Butler, associate professor of health and physical education; Doni Mollus senior instructor of business; Dr. Theo Ross, professor of fine arts; Dr. Patti Drews, professor of geography; and Daniel Smith, assistant professor of political science.
“I’m calling them ‘stealth-like faculty,’” Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet said. “They lay low. They do really good work. They impact students’ lives in meaningful ways.”
Mottet surveyed academic department chairs and school directors at the University about individuals in their respective units who tend to operate under the radar but consistently contribute to the department and student success in meaningful ways.
The honorees were selected but not told of the recognition, making Wednesday’s announcement a surprise to everyone in the audience, with the exception of the individuals who helped plan it.
Five Northwest alumni – one to represent each faculty member – also were part of the tribute. Each stood behind the stage curtain of the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts’ Mary Linn Auditorium and recalled the many ways their respective faculty member impacted them. The alumni recalled personal stories, meaningful advice and career assistance.
Latonya Davis, a 2004 Northwest graduate who is employed as a physical education teacher at Valley Park Elementary, reflected on the immediate connection she had with Butler as an instructor and then as her academic advisor. He later invited her to present with him at a state conference, helping her build confidence in her skills. Today, she continues to present at the conference and recently was nominated for Missouri P.E. Teacher of the Year.
“I have adopted the love he shows to his students, and it helps build relationships and makes my job anything but a job,” she said. “My students see the passion I have adopted for P.E. and it encourages them to work hard.”
Justin Ranney, a 2012 Northwest alumnus who works as a senior financial analyst at Technology Epiq Systems in Kansas City, Kan., introduced Mollus. He recalled Mollus as one of the first instructors he met at Northwest and the approach she took to preparing students for the accounting field.
“Now that I am in the professional world I can’t tell you how many lessons from Doni helped me to get here,” Ranney said. “For the last four years I have been sharpening my cost accounting skills and have had the opportunity to become a specialist in the information technology and software field. Most importantly, I have to recognize that without all of the detailed work in her cost classes, I would not have been in a position to take on this type of role.”
Megan Friend, a 2015 alumna who is an actor and educator working with the RESPECT, BlueBarn Theatre and Project Harmony theater companies in Omaha, Neb., introduced Ross as an instructor who inspired her to commit to her love of acting. Friend expressed gratitude for Ross’ decision to cast her in a leading role while she was just a sophomore and his ability to connect with students to create a shared vision.
“He pushed me harder than I have ever been pushed and believed in me when I wasn't sure that I believed in myself,” Friend said. “He was one of the first people who expressed to me that I made the correct career choice but if I wanted it, I needed to push my limits. There are many alumni as well as current students whose lives and education have been impacted by Dr. Ross.”
Ethan Herbek, 2004 graduate who is employed at Midland GIS Solutions in Maryville, introduced Drews. Herbek said he arrived at Northwest as an undecided major but discovered his interest in geography through a course he took with Drews.
“The passion she taught with, and the knowledge she demonstrated in a variety of topics made my decision one that I became very comfortable with,” he said. “Dr. Drews had spent time in the working world and had the perfect sense of what was needed to succeed. There is not a day that goes by that I do not apply the principles and fundamentals learned in those classes to the career I currently occupy.”
Andrew Dufour, a 2008 graduate and attorney at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, reflected on Smith’s keen ability to prepare students for law school and the law field. Dufour also credited Smith as a major influence on his life.
“Dan was the type of professor who was always available to his students,” Dufour said. “If he had free time, he was in his office, and his door was open. I was in his office a lot. … I think it was because of those conversations and because of the time I had with him as a professor that I am who I am today. I don’t think I would have gone to law school if not for Dan Smith.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468