Faculty Awards

The Marcus and Mark H. Trumbo Award for Excellence in Teaching

In 1976, the institution's most prestigious faculty award was established by Mark Trumbo, a former dean of Aurora College, in memory of his father. Upon his own death years later, the award was renamed to recognize the accomplishments of both father and son. This award has served to recognize the finest work of Aurora University faculty in their roles as teachers, mentors, and transformative scholars. The Trumbo Award is given annually to one professor, and recognizes the finest work of Aurora University faculty in their roles as teachers, mentors and transformative scholars.

The university's chief academic officer presents the Marcus and Mark H. Trumbo Excellence in Teaching Award to a deserving member of the AU faculty at commencement. Each year's recipient provides remarks at the Honors Convocation the following spring.

Joan Erickson, Ph.D.2013 Trumbo Award Recipient

Joan Erickson, Ph.D.
Professor of Education

Dr. Joan Erickson teaches special education literacy courses in the School of Education. The core of her beliefs as an educator is that learning to read changes the lives of children; continuing to read changes their lives forever. Prior to coming to Aurora University in 2008, Dr. Erickson spent 19 years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she taught and conducted research in literacy development and instruction. Since beginning her career as a teacher educator, she has received the Albert J. Harris Award from the International Reading Association for conducting research that made an outstanding contribution to the understanding of prevention or assessment of reading or learning disabilities. In addition, she has received the Donald R. and Mary Lee Swanson Award for Teaching Excellence and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Nebraska College of Education and Human Sciences, as well as an Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Notre Dame and the Crystal Apple Award from Michigan State University. She co-advises PEEPs (People Engaging Exceptional People), a student organization dedicated to improving the life experiences of individuals with disabilities. Dr. Erickson provided words of inspiration and encouragement at the Spring 2014 Honors Convocation, which can be viewed here.

Donovan Gwinner, Ph.D.2012 Trumbo Award Recipient

Donovan Gwinner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

Dr. Donovan Gwinner teaches composition, literature, and interdisciplinary studies. Before joining the faculty of Aurora University in the fall of 2004, he taught as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Oregon, his undergraduate alma mater, and at such institutions as Washington State University-Vancouver, Portland Community College (in Oregon), and the University of Arizona, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in English Language and Literature. Increasingly, he regards college students as survivors of an educational régime dominated by bureaucrats, bean counters, and bunglers. He delights in helping students to develop their own critical perspectives and to articulate their own thinking effectively. Dr. Gwinner emphasizes student-centered instruction, providing guidance as the classroom leader but giving students the opportunity to lead discussions and generate ideas. He encourages and challenges students to be active and self-directed in pursuit of their education.

Deborah Stevens, Ph.D.2011 Trumbo Award Recipient

Deborah A. Stevens, Ph.D.
Professor of Education

Dr. Deborah A. Stevens joined Aurora University in 2001 as an assistant professor in the School of Education. She developed and taught classes at all levels from undergraduate to graduate courses. For Dr. Stevens, teaching is the cornerstone of her work and impact means contributing to the development of teacher candidates and the larger audience including in-service teacher practitioners and the community as a whole. As a professor, Dr. Stevens assists teacher candidates in becoming critical thinkers, as they construct meaning, learn to question and not just accept educational policy, learn to be resourceful and self-directed, work to demonstrate passion and advocacy for the students they teach and to become fully devoted and committed toward having a positive impact on society. Her students describe her as "motivating to do the very best" and "she wants us to achieve to be the best teachers that we can be and after taking her class...how can you not be?" and "it's a tough class, but I have taken a lot more from it than any other methods class."

When Provost Andrew Manion presented Dr. Stevens with her award, he praised her as “an exceptionally talented educator,” saying that, “her gifts benefit not only Aurora University students in the School of Education, but also the primary and secondary students they go on to teach. Her impact is felt in schools throughout the region.”

Renae Franiuk, Ph.D.2010 Trumbo Award Recipient

Renae Franiuk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology

Dr. Renae Franiuk has been a faculty member in the Psychology Department at Aurora University since 2005 and has been Chair of the Psychology Department since 2008. She has primarily taught General Psychology, Social and Applied Psychology, and Contemporary Issues in Psychology. In the classroom, students describe Dr. Franiuk as a “difficult teacher who expects a lot from her students” and as someone who is “enthusiastic and engaging” and “pushes you to think outside of the box.” She also developed a Special Topics course, Violence against Women, which reflects her passion for investigating issues of social justice. Related, she conducts research on popular media and its impact on beliefs and attitudes toward domestic violence and sexual assault. She has been the advisor of Psi Chi, has mentored Honors students, and mentors several undergraduates who work with her on research each year. Her philosophy of teaching is based on three main principles — enthusiasm, critical thinking and evaluating multiple perspectives — with the central goals of inspiring her students to get excited about psychology and learning in general, and applying what they learn to new situations outside of the classroom.

Dr. Franiuk earned her PhD at the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign.

Previous Recipients

Len Scholl 2009   Dr. John D. Morrison 1992
Dr. Denise L. Hatcher 2008   Mary S. Nelums 1991
Dr. Barbara A. Strassberg 2007   Dr. R. David Chambers 1990
Dr. Daniel W. Hipp 2006   Dr. John J. Melles 1989
Joe L. Dunham 2005   Dr. Sara E. Bonkowski 1988
Dr. Shawn A. Green 2004   Carol D. Crane 1987
Dr. Donald W. Phelps 2003   James J. Valesano 1986
Dr. Ruth G. Ahlman 2002   Dr. Steven R. Lay 1985
Dr. Ann E. Fleury 2001   Judith M. Kachel 1984
Dr. Valerie G. Flynn 2000   Peter J. Adragna 1983
A member of the teaching faculty 1999   Richard M. Mayer 1982
Linda O’Neill 1998   Dr. R. David Chambers 1981
Dr. Carolyn S. Mull 1997   Kenneth A. Olenik 1980
Dr. Jane L. Davis 1996   Joe L. Dunham 1979
Dr. Johanna U. Taylor 1995   Dr. Moses C. Crouse 1978
Dr. Walter E. Sublette 1994   Dr. Kenneth V. Mull 1977
Dr. Janet H. Yanos 1993  

The Jeanne Norris Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Jeanne Norris Award for Excellence in Teaching was established in 2013 to recognize outstanding teaching by faculty at George Williams College. Dr. Norris has a passion for all things GWC. She served as a faculty member and academic leader from 1959 to 1985 before returning to her summer home in Maine to live on a year-round basis. Dr. Norris earned undergraduate and advanced degrees in the fields of Music, Education, and Physiology from Boston University and Loyola University. As a multi-talented teacher and a lifelong learner, Dr. Norris infused her work with intellectual curiosity and an intrinsic commitment to excellence. Generations of George Williams’ students benefitted from her high standards and her willingness to help them realize their full educational potential.

Award Recipients

Richard Boniak 2013

The Tony Olejnik Leadership Service Award

Several years ago, the Leadership Service Award was established by the Board of Trustees to pay tribute to members of the faculty and staff who exemplify the university's core values of integrity, citizenship, continuous learning and excellence.

In 2004, the award was rechristened the Tony Olejnik Leadership Service Award in memory of a professor who served first on the faculty of George Williams College in Downers Grove, Illinois, and later as a member of the psychology department at Aurora University. During his many years of service, Tony distinguished himself as a colleague, mentor, teacher and friend. This award is presented on behalf of the Board of Trustees by the Provost.

Award Recipients

Melinda Blakesley 2011    
James Lancaster 2010    
Len Scholl 2009    
Anne McKearn 2008    
Dr. David W. Eisinger 2008    
Dr. Ileana Brooks 2007    
Dr. Maryanne P. Locklin 2006    
James A. Scott 2005    
Dr. Anthony B. Olejnik 2004    
Dr. Richard F. Westphal 2003    

The John McKee Citizenship Award

The John McKee Citizenship Award was established in 2009 by longtime Aurora University Board of Trustee member, John F. McKee. This award – one for an AU faculty or staff member and one for a student – was created to affirm the university’s commitment to the values of integrity, citizenship, continuous learning, and excellence. The award reflects Mr. McKee’s lifetime commitment to “service before self,” a principle that has guided his work as an AU trustee for 35 years and in his involvement and service throughout the Aurora community.

The faculty or staff recipient is presented to a member of the AU faculty or staff who has demonstrated outstanding citizenship and is actively engaged in a community service beyond his or her role at the university. Nominations are accepted from students, faculty, as well as the general Aurora community. A monetary prize is awarded to the recipient and a matching gift is given to the organization of the person’s choice.

Award Recipients

Dr. Johnny Lloyd 2013    
Alan Benson 2012    
Deann Edgers 2011    
Dr. Donald Phelps 2010    
Amy Manion 2009