Dey Wins 2009 Top Teaching Prize

Jonathan Dey
Jonathan Dey

April 16, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jonathan Dey, professor of biology and the Miner Linnaeus Sherff Professor of Botany, was named as the 2009 winner of The Pantagraph Award for Teaching Excellence at the University on Wednesday, April 16, at the annual Honors Convocation in Westbrook Auditorium of Presser Hall. 

Listen to the award announcement or the Convocation address

The $1,000 teacher-scholar award is the University's top teaching honor and is sponsored by the daily newspaper headquartered in Bloomington that services eight counties and more than 60 communities in Central Illinois. The honoree is selected by Illinois Wesleyan's Promotion and Tenure Committee based on nominations received from members of the faculty.

Dey has traveled the country in his studies of botany, and has discovered, described and named several lichens through his research. A graduate of Oregon State and Duke universities, his doctoral research centered on lichens of high mountain areas of the Southern Appalachians in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Beginning his career as a secondary school teacher in Nigeria with the Peace Corps, Dey came to Illinois Wesleyan in 1974. Known on campus for his dedication to his students, he has lead them into fieldwork for decades. “He embodies the spirit of John Wesley Powell, that is his apparent beliefs that work in the field is vital for students to learn about the natural world,” said Provost Beth Cunningham, comparing Dey to the famed explorer and former Illinois Wesleyan professor, who was the first to lead students on field trips in the 1800s.  “Dr. Dey has taken students to places such as the Alleghenies upland area of West Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee nearly every summer, where students have the opportunity to work side-by-side with him.” She added he is known as a mentor to both students and fellow faculty members.

Dey was a member of the scientific team that developed a model for using lichens as an indicator of air quality in forest ecosystems in the middle Atlantic and southeastern United States as part of the National Forest Health Monitoring Program. He now works on contributing to the macrolichen inventory of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as part of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) of the park. According to Cunningham, he has published 24 articles in peer reviews, journals and technical reports, and been active in professional societies. He served as acting chair of the biology department twice during his tenure, and has contributed to and led many University committees.

The principal address at the Honors Convocation was delivered by the 2008 Pantagraph award winner, Marina Balina, the Isaac Funk Professor and professor of Russian Studies at Illinois Wesleyan.  Her address, titled “At the Crossroads: On Fairly Tales, Firebirds and Real Life Choices,” explored our love of fairy tales and the lessons they can provide. “Fairy tales tell us that only by living through difficult times, by falling out of grace – however temporarily – can our heroes and heroines mature and become rightful recipients of fairy tale happiness,” said Balina, who is a pioneering scholar of Russian children’s literature written during the Soviet Union. “This teaches us that sacrifice and loss, hard times and obstacles are equal and genuine parts of the human experience.”

In addition to the announcement of The Pantagraph Award for Teaching Excellence winner, the Convocation was an occasion to recognize numerous student scholastic honors. Retiring faculty members also were recognized at the Convocation. Associate Professor of Nursing Kathryn Scherck, who has been with Illinois Wesleyan for 21 years, and Associate Professor of Music Susan Brandon, who has been with Illinois Wesleyan for 41 years, were both designated the title of associate professor emeritus. Professor of Economics Margaret Chapman, who has been with Illinois Wesleyan for 31 years, was designated the title of professor emeritus.

Rachel Hatch (309) 556-3960