Mentorship Cultivates Connection

Adele Davidson ’75 and Margaret Stevenson are the winners of this year’s Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards.


At an institution that has long pledged its devotion to the art of teaching, two professors recently were honored for their outstanding work in the classroom.

Adele Davidson ’75, the Charles P. McIlvaine Professor of English, and Margaret Stevenson, associate professor of psychology, were recognized during Honors Day with the Trustee Teaching Excellence awards

Every year, the College honors two members of the Kenyon faculty for exemplary teaching informed by creative scholarship. Established in 1999, the Senior Award is given to a tenured­-level faculty member who has been teaching at Kenyon for at least 10 years, and the Junior Award is for either a tenured or tenure-­track faculty member who is in their first 10 years at Kenyon. 

The awards, which carry $5,000 stipends, are intended to promote excellence by providing increased visibility for the College’s most talented teacher­-scholars. 

In the case of Davidson, the distinction comes to a faculty member who is intimately familiar with the educational expectations at the College — as both faculty and student. A member of the Class of 1975 who entered through the Coordinate College for Women, she is the first alumna to receive tenure in the English department. 

Davidson sees herself as just the latest link in a proud pedagogical tradition in Gambier. “I’m kind of passing on the legacy that I felt I received from the teachers that I had,” she said.

A Shakespeare specialist, Davidson has taught at Kenyon since 1985. Her teaching interests include Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and poetry, comedy and the literature of the Reformation.

In nominating Davidson for the award, students remarked on her astounding breadth of knowledge as well as her poise and grace in the classroom. They described her as someone who makes students feel respected by cultivating the art of listening as well as by bringing a sense of compassion to the classroom. 

One nominator went so far as to say that her “professorial commitments, professional achievements, and civic generosity are both model and matrix for the young men and women we teach and for other members of our community.” 

Davidson said she continues to be a work in progress as she tries to help students unlock the joy of Shakespeare’s language and find modern meaning in age-old texts.

“This is year 39 of teaching at Kenyon for me, and I'm still trying to work out the best ways to accomplish that, but when students can find a way of connecting the class to things that they are interested in, then I think they're more open to hearing whatever kinds of knowledge could be presented.”

The importance of bridging the gap between students and academic material also is central to Stevenson, a social psychologist who joined the College in 2021.

“In the classroom, we're always working toward giving students opportunities to take this concept we've just discussed and learned about and connecting it to your own life/the world around you,” she said.

Stevenson’s work explores the intersection of psychology and the law and, in particular, the experiences of marginalized populations within the justice system. 

Student nominators praised Stevenson — whose classes include “Stereotyping, Racism and Prejudice” — for her engaging lectures and deft handling of discussions involving sensitive topics, inspiring participants to think critically and practically about important issues facing the world.

They also lauded her work as a mentor, teaching them how to balance their time as they put concepts into practice through research and helping to build their self-confidence. “I was one of the more shy students in class, but she approached the material with such passion and interest that made me eager to contribute to discussion,” one student nominator wrote.

That’s by design — and the result of Stevenson’s own personal experience. 

“I can see myself in a lot of these students in a lot of different ways. I feel like I was one of those shy students,” she said. “And so I try to build into the classroom experience opportunities to give them that confidence that I never had.”

Stevenson also prioritizes giving them chances to take learning out of the classroom, either through research or by sharing that research with the public by authoring op-eds.

She said she was “totally blown away” by the recent honor and expressed gratitude to her peers for sharing their own teaching insights, especially through the College’s two-year mentoring program for new tenure-track faculty members.

“I loved that I had the mentors that I had and the support that they gave me,” she said. “My colleagues are all amazing. I’m learning from them all the time.”