By Scott Bigelow
The Board of Governors of the 16-campus University of North Carolina selected Dr. Patricia Valenti, an English professor at UNC Pembroke, to receive its 10th annual Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The board annually names one faculty member from each of the 16 campuses to receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize. Dr. Valenti will serve as grand marshal of Spring Commencement 2004.
Dr. Roger Brown, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, hailed the award as a lifetime achievement for a faculty member.
"We take great pride in the reputation of UNC Pembroke as a center for excellent teaching," Dr. Brown said. "To be selected by one's students and peers as the Board of Governors' Teacher of Excellence is the highest award that we can bestow upon one of our colleagues."
"I have heard from members of the awards committee that Professor Valenti's classroom presence is dynamic, enthusiastic, and highly knowledgeable," Dr. Brown said. "She is the embodiment of the teacher/scholar that we value so highly at UNC Pembroke. I am very proud to be a colleague of Professor Patricia Valenti."
Dr. Valenti joined UNCP's faculty in 1984. In addition to her teaching duties, she is coordinator for the Master of Arts in English education program.
"I am honored to have been chosen as this year's recipient of the Board of Governors award," Dr. Valenti said. "I love to study, teach and make literature and writing relevant to my students' lives."
"I hope to share my enthusiasm for literature and writing for many years to come," she said.
Dr. Valenti is a scholar of 19th century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family. In 1991, LSU Press published Dr. Valenti's book on Hawthorne's daughter, "To Myself a Stranger: A Biography of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop."
The first volume of Dr. Valenti's biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife, entitled "Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, A Life, Volume I through 1847," will be published this spring by the University of Missouri Press. During the 2001-2002 academic year, she was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities for a one-year research grant to write the book.
Dr. Valenti was also invited to participate in the planning of the Hawthorne Museum in Salem, Mass., his birthplace.
Last year, she served as distinguished visiting professor in the Department of English and Fine Arts at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co. That year, Greenwood Press published Dr. Valenti's book, "Understanding 'The Old Man and the Sea': A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents."
An important element of Dr. Valenti's professional activities is assisting in the development of other public school teachers and faculty members. She successfully applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities Focus Grant to work with area teachers to develop techniques for effectively teaching Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."
Dr. Valenti received the University's Outstanding Teacher Award and several faculty development grants. A New York City native, she received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a B.A. degree from Marymount College.
Dr. Thomas Leach, a long-time colleague of Dr. Valenti's in the English Department and as Dean of the College of Arts, said she is a model teacher-scholar.
"In her 20 years of service to UNCP, Dr. Patricia Valenti has enhanced the learning of her students, providing an example of a teacher-scholar whose commitment to teaching is enriched by her outstanding scholarship," Dr. Leach said. "She is an esteemed colleague, and I am proud of her achievement in receiving this distinguished award."
The Board of Governors Committee on Personnel and Tenure, chaired by John W. Davis III of Winston-Salem, N.C., selected the 16 recipients. The Board of Governors established the award in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching. The awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus.
UNC President Molly Corbett Broad and Board of Governors Chairman J. Bradley Wilson of Cary will present the awards at a recognition luncheon to be held in conjunction with the board's May meeting.