BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University Chair and Associate Professor of
Chemistry Rebecca Roesner was named the 2014 winner of the Kemp Foundation Award for
Teaching Excellence at the annual Honors Convocation Wednesday. The award, the University’s
highest teaching honor, is presented annually to a faculty member.
In announcing Roesner as the recipient, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Jonathan Green
quoted one of Roesner’s nominators, who noted “her dedication and exceptional commitment
to each student, plus her mentoring of junior faculty in the department, create a
model for other IWU faculty. She integrates scholarship in teaching of undergraduates,
stimulating excitement for the acquisition of knowledge and motivating students to
utilize their potentials. She is always looking for ways to enhance the college experiences
of our students.”
An inorganic chemist, many of Roesner’s research projects involve polyoxometalates,
which are catalytically active inorganic compounds that form between oxygen and early
transition metals such as vanadium, molybdenum and tungsten. Roesner’s work involves
both modifying polyoxometalates and designing molecular receptors for them in efforts
to enhance their utility in catalysis. Roesner is also interested in determining the
molecular structures of compounds using X-ray crystallography and in developing student
laboratory projects concerning biofuels. She has involved more than 50 Illinois Wesleyan
students in her research projects.
Roesner’s work has been published in Inorganic Chemistry, Advances in Inorganic Chemistry and The Chemical Educator. She has presented her work at the International Symposium on Macrocyclic Chemistry,
the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, and numerous meetings of the American
Chemical Society. She has also mentored or advised many Illinois Wesleyan students
in their successful application for additional opportunities including National Science
Foundation Graduate Student Fellowships and the Pfizer Summer Undergraduate Research
Roesner joined the Illinois Wesleyan faculty in 1997. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan
University with majors in chemistry and history, and earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry
from the University of Kansas.
Active in her service to the University and to her profession, Roesner is currently
serving on the University’s Curriculum Council and Pre-Medical Advisory Committee,
and is vice president of the Illinois Wesleyan chapter of the American Association
of University Professors. She is an active member of the American Chemical Society,
Phi Beta Kappa and Iota Sigma Pi, a national honor society for women in chemistry.
In addition to the announcement of the Kemp Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence,
the Convocation recognizes numerous student scholastic honors and other faculty honorees.
Two retiring faculty members – Professor of German Julie Prandi and Professor of History
Paul Bushnell – were awarded the status of faculty emeritus.
The 2013 Kemp Teaching award winner, Narendra Jaggi, professor of physics, was the
speaker for the Convocation. Nick Kemp of the Kemp Foundation presented Jaggi with
In his speech for the occasion, entitled “Refracting Honor Through a Personal Prism,”
Jaggi utilized his Facebook page to present an often humorous yet touching reflection
of the people he honors and those who have honored him throughout his life and career.
He spoke of people ranging from his wife and Nelson Mandela to former professors and
Using a prism and light as metaphors, Jaggi admonished the audience to think of the
light as people being sent through a prism of honor. “Who you honor, whom you honor,
what you honor, how you honor – that refraction tells you about the prism,” said Jaggi.
“Whom you honor and how you honor tells the rest of the world what you are made of.”
Citing a recent New York Times article centered on “we are what we quote,” Jaggi likened that article’s main point
to honor -- with an important difference.
“Not that we are who we honor, but we honor those we would like to be like,” he said.
Speaking directly to the students, Jaggi admonished them to go out into their lives
and communities with “eyes open, ears open, make sure the prism of your own community,
of your own organization fairly and inclusively honors all aspects of human richness
and human accomplishment.”