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Retired, but not tired

26 January 2007 By Kristi Funderburk No Comments
Online exclusive: History professor Mark Whitman receives 2006 President's Award for Distinguished Service

Professor Mark Whitman receives the 2006 President’s Award for Distinguished Service at Commencement on Sunday, Jan. 8.

Last June, Mark Whitman retired from Towson University after 38 years. To Whitman, however, retirement doesn’t include giving up teaching, as he will return to his constitutional history course as a part-time faculty member.

It is this enthusiasm as well as nearly four decades of hard work and varied participation in the University and outside community that made Whitman the 25th recipient of the 2006 President’s Award for Distinguished Service.

“His name was put forward, with several others, by the awards committee,” University President Robert Caret explained. “All the nominees were worthy, but I felt Mark’s remarkable service coupled with his long tenure placed him on the top of the list.”

But despite his newest achievement and the evident decades of dedication, Whitman just thinks of himself as an “ordinary teacher,” particularly in comparison to past recipients.

“To be even in that category is a great honor,” Whitman stated. “Its very humbling especially after teaching as long as I have. It’s particularly humbling since the first [recipient of the President's Award] was my mentor.”

Whitman went on to explain that Mary Catherine Kahl, who was honored the award in 1982 from President Hoke Smith, was his best role model in his first years at Towson.

But Kahl only tops a long list of role models for Whitman who named several remaining and retired faculty members that helped him throughout his time at Towson.

“I have a wonderful relationship with the faculty in my department and also in other departments,” he said.

In effect, it was through a friend that Whitman found himself part of the University Senate for most of his Towson career. Herbert Andrews, a former history professor as well as the Senate president, recommended Whitman to be parliamentarian. Whitman took on the responsibility as he confided in Andrews, who also won the President’s Award previously, as a role model.

“I guess they thought because I taught constitutional history I must know something about parliamentary procedures,” Whitman joked, as he explained he spent the summer prior reading what he had to do as parliamentarian.

Soon though Whitman learned his job “was really to keep things running smoothly,” as he said, and he did for 30 years, stopping just three years short of his retirement when things became busy as department chair.

But when Whitman wasn’t attending Senate meetings or teaching courses, he spent much of his leisure off campus.

“I always have been and I still am involved in my synagogue, with the Chizuk Amuno Congregation. I still do a lot of things there,” Whitman explained. “I was also on the board [of trustees] at the Baltimore Hebrew University when I was still there.”

Whitman also enjoys reading and researching in his spare time, “sort of as an extension” to his work at Towson. It was these pursuits that eventually led to the publishing of three books Removing a Badge of Slavery: The Record of Brown v. Board of Education, The Irony of Desegregation Law, and Florida 2000.

But Whitman has always focused on his teaching as well as scholarship above his community work to consistently strengthen the University.

“I do the same activities as all the faculty. I like to focus on scholarship and teaching and the students,” he explained. “I think once you commit yourself to an institution, you want to play a part to always try and make it better.”

Overall, it’s been his love for his colleagues and Towson’s students and atmosphere that has kept Whitman close to Towson’s community.

“I came to Towson by chance when a friend said there was an opening. I wanted to be there just a few years, but I just liked it so much so I decided once I got my Ph.D. a few years later, I would just stay,” he said. “I’m very involved as a teacher; that’s why I’m still doing it.”

About the award:

    The award is given to a faculty member who has dedicated twenty or more years to higher education at Towson University, or at Towson and other colleges or universities. The recipient will be an individual who has made an important contribution through his or her teaching, scholarship, and participation in university affairs.

    Judging Criteria: Among the factors to be considered are: (1) extraordinary effort as a teacher and/or scholar; (2) extraordinary service for twenty (20) or more years to the institution and/or profession; (3) a balance of achievement in teaching, scholarship, and service to the institution and/or profession; (4) evidence of direct impact and involvement with students. The Faculty Development and Research Committee will submit three nominations to the President. The President in consultation with the representatives from the Committee will select the recipient of the award.

    Source: Daily Digest

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