WMU News

Distinguished Faculty Scholars announced

Jan. 22, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Two internationally known Western Michigan University faculty members, one an expert in supercomputing and the other an authority on Anglo-Saxon studies, will receive Western Michigan University's highest award next month.

Dr. Elise de Doncker, professor of computer science, and Dr. Paul E. Szarmach, professor of English and director of WMU's Medieval Institute, have been named Distinguished Faculty Scholars and will be honored during the University's annual academic convocation Thursday, Feb. 5. The award is the highest honor WMU bestows on a faculty member.

The Distinguished Faculty Scholar award, established in 1978, recognizes those whose work constitutes a significant body of achievement, most of which has been accomplished while a faculty member at WMU. Nominations are sought campuswide for recipients, who also must be widely recognized beyond the University. The award includes a plaque and a $2,000 cash award. As award recipients, each also will have $2,000 added to their base salary.

A WMU faculty member since 1982, de Doncker's research interests include the design and analysis of parallel algorithms, distributed computing, scientific parallel computations, computational science and numerical analysis.

She is the author of more than 60 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and a principal investigator on research projects funded by such organizations as the National Science Foundation, IBM and nCube Corp. She has conducted research at the Argonne Laboratory for Advanced Computational Research facility and at Cal Tech's Concurrent Supercomputing facility, and she is credited with designing software used around the world in a wide range of numerical integration solutions.

"Elise is a highly respected researcher in the numerical integration area," said a colleague from another research university in a letter of support for her nomination. "Her outstanding research record is recognized nationally and internationally through quality publications, software use and conference presentations."

Campus supporters noted both her dedication to research and her commitment to teaching-- both of which serve to enhance the reputation of the University. Her ability to attract research funding, said one, has provided her department with cutting-edge computing platforms and support for graduate students.

"Not only is Dr. de Doncker a first-class researcher, she is also a first-class teacher," wrote the same colleague. "She has demonstrated a longtime commitment to graduate education in computer science. As an accomplished researcher and teacher, she has served to considerably enhance the reputation of WMU."

Noting de Doncker's willingness to integrate other disciplines into her courses, a doctoral student praised the "incredible breadth of her work and wide range of interests that make her a unique individual" and a role model for her students.

"She is truly a Renaissance woman," the student noted.

A native of Belgium, de Doncker earned her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in that nation before teaching in the Netherlands and then coming to WMU.

Szarmach came to WMU as a faculty member in 1994 after 24 years at the State University of New York-Binghamton. The Anglo-Saxon studies specialist assumed the position of director of WMU's Medieval Institute in 1995. Many of those supporting Szarmach's nomination for the award pointed to both his scholarly contributions to his field and what one supporter called Szarmach's "benign genius" for administration and organization, managing both the Medieval Institute and its annual gathering of some 3,000 medieval scholars from around the globe.

"Because he is so brilliant an organizer, it is often thought that he is merely an organizer and that his scholarship takes second place to administration," noted a campus colleague who lauded Szarmach for both his organizational skills and his scholarly research.

"Paul Szarmach's achievements as both a scholar and an administrator are legion," said a colleague at another university. "It is hard to think of anyone in North America whose activities have had a greater impact in promoting the health of Anglo-Saxon studies--his chosen field--and of Medieval studies in general."

The head of a major professional organization said Szarmach "is one of the most accomplished scholars of Old English literature in the world and a dedicated medievalist who has contributed tremendously to medieval studies in North America."

Szarmach's supporters lauded him for serving for 20 years as editor of the Old English Newsletter; for developing the Richard Rawlinson Center for Anglo-Saxon Studies and Manuscript Research at WMU and for attracting a record five grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct seminars for U.S. scholars in England, which have been "career changing experiences for those attending."

Szarmach earned is bachelor's degree in 1963 from Canisius College and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in 1964 and 1968, respectively.

As part of their awards, de Doncker and Szarmach have each been invited to give a presentation to the University community at a Distinguished Faculty Scholar Colloquium. The date, time and location of those events will be announced later.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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