“With Ferocity and Wonder”

Excellence in teaching, student achievements and community enrichment are recognized at Kenyon’s 2021 Honors Day Convocation.

By David Hoyt

Kenyon’s 2021 Honors Day Convocation opened by recognizing Assistant Professor of Statistics Erin Leatherman and Professor of Political Science and International Studies Steve Van Holde, winners of this year’s Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards.

The award, established in 1999 by Kenyon’s Board of Trustees to annually honor both junior and senior faculty members who demonstrate excellence inside and outside of the classroom, was just the first of many to be presented by President Sean Decatur at a ceremony presented online. Normally held in Rosse Hall, Honors Day was celebrated as a virtual event for the second year in a row due to ongoing restrictions on gatherings during the pandemic.

“Our cheers are no less exuberant when called out from a distance,” Decatur said in his opening remarks. “The sum of your accomplishments is greater in the long light of COVID-19. You adapted to new classroom environments and asynchronous study. You overcame the obstacles of bad internet connections, multiple time zones and Zoom burnout. Most importantly, you continued to pursue your Kenyon education with ferocity and wonder that will serve you for the rest of your lives.”

One student nomination described Leatherman, who arrived in Gambier in 2018, as “a true gem amongst a phenomenal list of Kenyon faculty members. … She is able to connect with students on a personal level while also teaching advanced and highly technical content in a precise and enjoyable way.”

In nominating Van Holde, who joined the Kenyon faculty in 1990, for the award, one student noted that he “epitomizes the most essential qualities of an excellent teacher: intelligence, curiosity, humor and compassion.” Others noted that they were “compelled by his energetic teaching style” and that “Van Holde’s classes lit up neurological pathways I never even knew existed in my brain.”

After Decatur recognized Kenyon students and alumni for various fellowships and scholarships, Provost Jeff Bowman presented departmental prizes honoring student excellence in fields spanning the alphabet from American studies to women’s and gender studies, and Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 awarded college prizes to students who have contributed to the Kenyon community in various ways. (A full list of award winners can be found here.) 

Chief among these college prizes are:

  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, presented annually to the student who has best promoted social justice through service activities and programs, won by Hanaa Ibrahim ’22,

  • The Doris B. Crozier Award, awarded to a student who has demonstrated qualities of vision, responsibility, courage, and dedication to excellence, won by Jorge Dumenigo ’21, and

  • The E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, awarded to the student who, in the opinion of students, faculty and staff, has done the most for Kenyon during the year, won by Jonathan Hernández ’21, who was cited for his “commitment to the success of underrepresented communities at Kenyon” and his “kind demeanor, genuine demonstrations of gratitude, and unrelenting dedication to his fellow students.”

The program concluded with a presentation of the song “Tempus” by composer Stephen Chatman, performed by the Kenyon Chamber Singers and conducted by Professor of Music Benjamin “Doc” Locke. 

Due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, honorary doctorates, which are normally awarded to distinguished alumni and other members of the Kenyon family at Honors Day, will be presented at a later date.

Find a full list of Honors Day award recipients, download a PDF of the event program or view the recording of the Honors Day ceremony on Kenyon’s Livestream channel.