March 24, 2020
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Kenyon celebrated students and teachers Tuesday with the annual Honors Day Convocation in Rosse Hall, highlighted by teaching awards for Katherine Elkins, associate professor of comparative literature and humanities, and Zoë Kontes, associate professor of classics.
The Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards recognize a senior and junior faculty member for "exemplary teaching informed by creative scholarship." Elkins was honored as a tenured faculty member who has been on the faculty for at least ten years, and Kontes won the award given to a faculty member who has been teaching at Kenyon less than ten years.
Elkins came to Kenyon in 2002 from the University of California at Berkeley, where she taught and earned her doctorate in comparative literature. Trained in comparative literature with a specialization in Latin poetry and nineteenth-and twentieth-century French, English, German and American literature, her research focuses on the intersections of science, literature and philosophy.
Kenyon students who nominated Elkins for the award call her an “incredible teacher and mentor” and admire her accessibility. One student said Elkins “single-handedly transformed the way I think and write and see the world.” Another noted that “not a single class went by where I felt like I had failed to learn something incredible.”
Kontes joined the faculty at Kenyon in 2007 after working at Duke University as a visiting assistant professor in classical studies. Her main field of expertise is Old World archeology, and she has participated in excavations in Sicily, Greece and Cyprus. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and holds a doctorate from Brown University.
Students marvel at Kontes’ enthusiasm for the material she teaches, especially Latin. One wrote, “She teaches with more passion and interest than any other professor I've had.” Another said, “As long as you put in the effort, she will do her best to help you succeed.”
The Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards, which carry a $5,000 stipend, were established the Kenyon College Board of Trustees in 1999 to promote excellence by raising the visibility of outstanding performers.
In addition to the teaching awards, two honorary degrees were given by the College. A doctor of letters was conferred on Allison Elaine Joseph ’88, a noted poet, teacher and editor who is an associate professor of poetry at Southern Illinois University. Stephen Henry Zinder ’72, a professor of microbiology at Cornell University, received a doctor of science.