Diaz Named 2022 Kemp Award Winner

Joanne Diaz
Professor and Chair of English Joanne Diaz has been named the 2022 recipient of the Kemp Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence

April 14, 2021

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Professor and Chair of English Joanne Diaz has been named the 2022 recipient of the Kemp Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence at Illinois Wesleyan University.

The Kemp Award winner, selected by the faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee, is recognized for bringing spirit, passion and scholarship to the art of teaching. Wednesday’s Kemp Foundation’s Teaching Excellence Award Ceremony was held virtually via prerecorded video due to the ongoing pandemic.

Professor of History Tom Lutze — the 2021 Kemp Award winner — was recognized by Toni Jenkins, daughter of emeritus Illinois Wesleyan trustee Parker Kemp, on behalf of the Kemp family and foundation. Lutze then delivered his Kemp address “Up Against the System!”: Investigating Systemic Problems; Inventing Systemic Solutions.”

Newly announced Kemp Award recipient Joanne Diaz, a member of Illinois Wesleyan’s faculty since 2008, is a poet, a scholar and a teacher. In announcing Diaz, Provost Mark Brodl said, “A nominator’s letter provided compelling evidence for how our 2022 honoree ‘inspires students’ curiosity, love of learning, creative aspirations, idealism, ethical awareness, and sense of professionalism.’ The nominator notes: ‘To be inspiring you need to be passionate about what you do.’ If someone were to ask me to name IWU’s most passionate faculty members, our awardee would most definitely be among them.”

Brodl continued by providing a composite from the observations of the colleagues who nominated Diaz, the student contributors, and his own experience witnessing Diaz in the classroom, “Our awardee is a ‘natural teacher’ and ‘instinctively knows how to draw out students’ own intellectual curiosity,’ whether the ‘utterly mundane or the supremely sublime.’  The classroom experience is one of lively engagement.”

Brodl added, “A student writes that our awardee’s ‘enthusiasm for the humanities and dedication to students creates a perfect pedagogical storm, and they are willing and excited to sacrifice a bit of morning shut eye in order to attend (even) 8 a.m. courses.’”

A “true teacher-scholar,” according to Brodl, Diaz has published numerous award-winning pieces, including articles, poems, textbooks and books. Her book titles include: The Lessons, winner of the 2009 Gerald Cable Book Award (Silverfish Review Press, 2011), My Favorite Tyrants, winner of the 2013 Brittingham Prize in Poetry (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), and The Little Magazine in Contemporary America, co-edited with Ian Morris (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Diaz earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University and a Ph.D. in English literature from Northwestern University.

Diaz was announced as the 2022 recipient during the Kemp Foundation’s Teaching Excellence Award Ceremony, which replaces the traditional Honors Day Convocation. At the ceremony, retiring members of the faculty were recognized: Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Melinda Baur, Professor of French and Francophone Studies Chris Callahan, Ben and Susan Rhodes Endowed Professor in Peace and Justice and Chair of Educational Studies Irv Epstein, Professor of English Kathleen O’Gorman and Professor of History Mike Weis. Departing adjunct faculty were also recognized, including: Adjunct Instructor of Sociology Emily Barr, and Adjunct Instructor of Hispanic Studies Cecilia Sanchez.

Student inductees into Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa, as well as other student honorees and award recipients, will be acknowledged by inclusion in the traditional program booklet that will be published online at the end of April.

By John Twork