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Gershon, Kynaston, Palthe honored for teaching excellence

Oct. 19, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Three Western Michigan University faculty members, recognized for their dedication to their students and lauded for their instructional skills, have been named recipients of WMU's Distinguished Teaching Awards, a program that honors classroom excellence.

Dr. Richard Gershon, professor of communication, Trent Kynaston, professor of music, and Dr. Jennifer Palthe, associate professor of management, will be presented with the awards Thursday, Oct. 25, when the University holds an Academic Convocation designed to recognize excellence across the campus. The teaching awards carry a one-time cash prize of $2,000 and a subsequent increase in base salary.

During the 3:30 p.m. convocation ceremony in the Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU President John M. Dunn will present these and other Universitywide awards to members of the faculty and staff. Other awards winners to be honored at the event include winners of the Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service and Emerging Scholar awards.

WMU's Distinguished Teaching Awards program was launched in 2006 to honor up to three full-time faculty members each year. Last year's recipients were Dr. Irma M. Lopez, professor of Spanish, and Dr. Suhashni "Sushi" Datta-Sandhu, associate professor of political science.

A similar honors program, the WMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence program, ran at the University between 1966 and 2001 and honored 131 faculty members during that time.

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2007 Teaching Excellence Award recipients

Dr. Richard Gershon, a faculty member since 1989, is the co-founder of the Telecommunications and Information Management program at WMU. He teaches courses in

telecommunications management, law and policy and communication technology. His attention to students--taking time to meet and learn the names of every student even in large classes--caused one former student to coin one of his classes not just a learning experience, but the "Gershon Experience."

"I believe Dr. Gershon embodies what every professor should strive to attain--the combination of true passion for the courses he teaches and the ability to encourage his students to work to their full potential," another former student wrote.

And still another former student noted that, "Dr. Gershon is an amazing professor in and out of the classroom, and one who has a passion for what he teaches and a dedication to every single one of his students."

Over the years, Gershon's colleagues credit him with being a leader in his field and in the development of new graduate mass communication courses for WMU.

"He has a long and consistent record of teaching excellence and award-winning contributions to curriculum development. That record has had an impact locally, as well as nationally; thus Dr. Gershon has made significant contributions to WMU's national reputation as a leader in higher education," one colleague wrote in support of his nomination.

Gershon has been honored for his teaching in the past including being selected twice for national teaching honors--the Steven H. Coltrin Professor of the Year Award in 2000 by the International Radio and Television Society and the Barry Sherman Award for Teaching Excellence in 2001 by the Management and Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2005, he was the recipient of the WMU College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award.

He holds a master's degree from the University of Vermont and a doctoral degree from Ohio University. He is a founding member of the International Telecommunications Education and Research Association and an award-winning author.


Trent Kynaston, a faculty member since 1973, is the founder of the WMU jazz studies program, teaches saxophone and jazz studies and performs as a member of the Western Jazz Quartet, a resident faculty ensemble in the School of Music. He is a recognized artist in classical and jazz music and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America, South America and Asia.

His instruction and encouragement has helped propel former students in their own roles as performers and educators, with one former student describing Kynaston's influence as "profound

and lasting," and praising him as "a dedicated and caring studio teacher who challenged his private students to achieve high artistic goals. And he did so without expecting anyone to fit into a preconceived mold."

Another former student wrote that Kynsaton's inspiration led him to become a high school music teacher. "It is often said that teachers teach how they were taught. Hardly a day goes by in my own teaching where I don't think about something that Professor Kynaston said or a way that he encouraged me to approach music."

Kynaston received the Outstanding Service Award and the Dean's Outstanding Teaching Award from the WMU College of Fine Arts, and also has been recognized outside the University as the recipient of DownBeat magazine's annual Achievement Award for Jazz Education.

A WMU colleague wrote, "His dedication is limitless, his knowledge and skills are world renown, and the results of his efforts revered throughout our profession."

Kynaston holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Arizona in music education and saxophone and a master's degree in music from that university.


Dr. Jennifer Palthe, a faculty member since 2000, is an expert in the areas of managing change in transnational corporations, cross-cultural diversity management and global human resource management.

Her students and colleagues praise her for identifying and nurturing the potential of each student.

"My predominating feeling during class was that she really understood how to touch a student's mind by carefully and repeatedly placing emphasis on what matters most. It is obvious to me that she remembers very well what it is like to be a student," a WMU business student wrote in support of her nomination.

"Integrity, leadership, knowledgeable and passion are a few characteristics that describe Dr. Palthe. She has the ability to positively influence and bring self-confidence to any student who walks into her classroom," echoed a recent Haworth College of Business graduate.

Her evaluations by students are consistently near perfect or perfect, according to a colleague who noted that seldom does a student miss one of Palthe's classes. She "is a remarkable role model with unequaled professional abilities to teach demanding courses while engendering student learning, mutual respect and admiration," the colleague wrote.

Palthe earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Cape Town and her master's and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she was senior change management consultant for Andersen Consulting, now Accenture. Her consulting experience spans retailing, manufacturing, finance, aviation, and oil and gas industries in Europe, Africa and the United States.


Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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