Mead recipients awarded $3,000

Alumni-created endowment funds 10 University faculty to honor retired Music Professor Ernest


Nine College professors and one Darden professor were awarded project grants from the Mead Endowment, a program created to commemorate the academic career of former Music Prof. Ernest "Boots" Mead. Winners were announced at a dinner in the Rotunda Dome Room Saturday night.

The Mead Endowment has been established for less than a decade but already has grown sizably in its ability to award grants. In 2004, the endowment awarded two grants to faculty members.

This fall, the endowment awarded nine grants to College faculty as well as one grant to Darden Prof. Erika James through the John Colley Award, a grant set up by Darden alumni who wished to honor a member of their faculty in the same spirit of the Mead Endowment. Each recipient was awarded about $3,000 in funds toward his project.

"I am very concerned as a teacher with liberating the creative enthusiasm and spirit of students, and if I can be a medium to help that happen, I will be happy to do it," Mead said during a speech at the dinner. "After [students] graduate, they are citizens and responsible for everything."

Asst. Sociology Prof. Josipa Roksa plans to use her endowment to fund an undergraduate research project to help her students better understand the work of a sociologist. The project will address students' lack of learning in higher education, particularly in the abilities of critical thinking, analytical reasoning and writing skills.

"I wanted to have the opportunity to work with undergrads in a very close-type environment," Roksa said. "Being able to do research is very important. I changed my career path by being a research assistant."

Other professors who received grants included Slavic Department Prof. Katia Dianina, Religious Studies Prof. Paul Jones, Biology Prof. Keith Kozminski, Chemistry Prof. Cameron Mura, Physics Prof. Chris Neu, English Prof. John Parker, Art History Prof. Tyler Jo Smith and Psychology Prof. Brian Wiltgen.

Funded primarily by alumni, the Mead Endowment was founded by former students of Mead who searched for a way to honor his legacy beyond typical measures, such as dedicating a University classroom or desk to him.

Mead taught at the University from 1953-96, and although he retired, he continues to reside in Charlottesville and lead a fourth-year seminar each spring with a collection of students he selects personally. The alumni of these seminars continue to hold Mead in high esteem.

Tom Darbyshire, the chair of the Mead Endowment and 1982 University graduate, said Mead's success as a professor came from the degree to which he personally engaged his students both outside and inside of the classroom.

Darbyshire said the main goal of the endowment is to grant "seed" money to faculty in the hope of inspiring them to continue their work outside of the classroom and independently from the endowment.

"[Mead] was a real influence on me, not only personally but also professionally because I continue to teach," said Jorge Plutzky, 1981 University graduate and current director of the Vascular Disease Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School. "He redefined what it meant to 'teach.'"

Update 1: 9/13/10 - Amount awarded receipients corrected

related stories