Faculty Senate Honors ‘Champions of Excellence’

With UM President Donna E. Shalala, colleagues, administrators, and family members in attendance, UM honored three of the finest in their professions at the annual Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony.

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 03, 2014) — It wasn’t Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall or the landmark Miranda vs. Arizona case that inspired Ricardo Bascuas to use a special teaching method with his law students, but a newspaper reporter who taught him the importance of paying attention to details.

“Tsitsi was tirelessly focused on preparing her students to be writers, journalists, and copy editors,” Bascuas, a University of Miami professor of law, said of his former UM School of Communication instructor, Tsitsi Wakhisi. “Her classes demanded a tremendous volume of copy from every student, and the rate at which she turned that copy around—sending it back with detailed notes in the margins—was astounding.”

Bascuas modeled his Federal Appellate Clinic after Wakhisi’s teaching method, requiring his students to write, rewrite, then rewrite yet again as part of the process of drafting appeals on behalf of indigent clients. “I work as fast as I can to get specific and detailed comments back to them,” he said.

A Yale Law School graduate and former assistant federal public defender, Bascuas received the Outstanding Teaching Award on Wednesday at UM’s Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony at Storer Auditorium, where two other professors were also honored.

Sherrill H. “Sherri” Hayes, a professor who spearheaded the transition of the former Division of Physical Therapy into a Miller School of Medicine department that now awards clinical and academic doctorates, received the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award. David R. Ellison, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and one of the foremost scholars on the French novelist, critic and essayist Marcel Proust, won the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award.

UM President Donna E. Shalala described them as “champions of excellence.”

“They’ve earned the respect and admiration of their peers and the student body,” she said, “and they’ve earned the gratitude of this University. They’re making a difference in the classroom, in our community, and in the academy.”

With colleagues, family members, senate officers, and past winners of all three awards looking on, Bascuas deflected the praise heaped on him, instead choosing to honor Wakhisi. “You never really know as a professor who you’re impacting and who you aren’t,” he said. “A lot of what I do as a professor I learned from Tsitsi.”

Service recognition: Sherri Hayes, who is known for fighting for minority and women's rights, is congratulated on receiving the McLamore Outstanding Service Award.

The McLamore Award’s message of honoring a member of the UM community for “service above and beyond the call of duty” resonated with Hayes, who, during Wednesday’s ceremony, recalled her father’s military service. Gregory Howarth was a member of the 82nd Airborne who parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day, getting captured soon after and becoming a prisoner of war. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, eventually became a colonel in the National Guard, and retired as the police chief of Elmwood Park, N.J.

“But his greatest pleasure was referring to me as ‘My daughter, the doctor,’ ” Hayes said.

She noted her own service to UM, recalling some of the Faculty Senate committees on which she served and her efforts in addressing inequities in the status of women and minorities. “What I learned from those committees was far more than what I ever brought to them, because I had the privilege of working with faculty, staff, and administrators from every school,” she said.

Hayes also said she was proud of the fact that, as a former associate master of UM’s Hecht Residential College, she once had the opportunity to meet McLamore, inviting the co-founder of Burger King and former chair of the UM Board of Trustees, to talk to her students.

“They were mesmerized, and so was I,” she recalled. “Here was a very tall and elegant man who had obviously achieved a great deal, and here he was speaking to the students with such passion about volunteering and doing community service.”

Ellison’s expertise embraces literary theory, European modernism, classicism and the Enlightenment, and 19th- and 20th-century French literature. He has published six books, with his most recent, Proust et la Tradition Litteraire Europeenne, cementing his reputation as a leading expert on Proust. He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

At the awards ceremony, Ellison presented “From Miami to Paris and Back, in Stages” recounting the time at age 10 when he attended elementary school in Paris, not knowing a single word of French, to his tenure at UM.

He called each of the three areas highlighted at the ceremony—service, teaching, and scholarship—“crucial to the well-being of the academic enterprise.”

“A good balance among them,” Ellison said, “is a goal that the best institutions set for themselves.”

Robert C. Jones Jr. can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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From left, David R. Ellison, Sherrill H. "Sherri" Hayes, and Ricardo Bascuas.

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