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Thursday, April 28, 2011

SU Honors Students Reminisce as 30th Anniversary Symposium Approaches

SALISBURY, MD---Lori (Frei) Govar was not yet a Salisbury University student when she first experienced the Thomas E. Bellavance Honors Program during a pre-college visit.

“I was so impressed with the students and fell in love with the program; the ‘old’ Honors House; the director, Dr. Tony Whall; and the school as a whole,” she said. “I was 100 percent convinced that Salisbury—and the Honors Program—was the place for me.”

The 1998 graduate joins other alumni during a symposium celebrating the Honors Program’s 30th anniversary on Saturday, April 30. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Worcester Room of the Commons.

Govar earned her B.A. in psychology and social work from SU before obtaining an M.S.W. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and an M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University. Today the Fredericksburg, VA, resident works as a data and report manager for Reliant Behavioral Health while taking care of her 3-year-old. She credits the Honors Program for helping hone the writing and critical thinking skills she uses every day.

Julia (Knudson) Southern, who received her B.A. in communication arts and psychology in 2001, and Katie George, who earned her B.A. in art in 1993, said they find these skills similarly useful in their professions.

“The Honors Program transformed me as a student,” said Southern, a counselor at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, MD. “As a result of my experience, I became a critical thinker, eager to learn as well as to question.”

George, a professional development instructor at the Howard County Library in Columbia, MD, said the faculty and friends she met through the program continue to impact her today.

All three former students remembered their time in the Honors Program fondly, noting especially the bond between Whall, program founder, and his students.

“I will never forget Dr. Whall’s impassioned pleas for his students to grasp a concept or see things his way,” said Southern. “On more than one occasion, I saw him drop to his knees with a desperate look in his eyes, hands and arms outstretched toward a student as if by sheer will he could get them to come around. There is no doubt that he loved and cared so much about what he taught, as well as his students.”

During the symposium, Whall, who retired in 2006, returns to lead the panel discussion “Looking Back—Memories of 30 Years” with Dr. Richard England, current director.

Many Honors students recall special moments that are surprisingly varied. Len Foxwell, now the chief of staff for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, earned his B.A. from SU in 1992. His favorite Honors memory: a toga party!

“The second course in my Honors core curriculum focused primarily on the Greek classics, and Dr. Bill Zak did a magnificent job of bringing those works to life and giving those characters a truly human dimension,” he said. “I’ll never forget that, to celebrate the completion of the course, Dr. Zak threw a toga party at the old Honors House.

“Hanging out with tenured professors clad in refashioned bed sheets, faux olive wreaths and gladiator sandals, I understood at that point that SU was going to be quite different than anything I’d experienced in high school.”

Govar presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Texas; attended an Honors camping trip at Hawk Mountain, PA, during New Student Orientation; and studied abroad in Ecuador. George recalled the move from the “old” Honors House on West College Avenue, where she lived for a semester, to the current center on Camden Avenue.

“Some of us were convinced this was a mistake … and then we got our first look at the new Honors House,” she said. “The huge, gadget-laden classroom; the comfy leather seats in the TV room; the gazebo; our own computer lab … OK, maybe change isn’t so bad!”

Residents of the “old” house and those who studied in the “new” will have a chance to reminisce during the symposium. Dr. George Scouten, Honors Program alumnus and 2010 South Carolina Independent School Association Upper School Teacher of the Year, is the plenary speaker.

An English teacher and former dean of students at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, SC, Scouten was the University of South Carolina’s Elliott Award for Outstanding Teaching winner and a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Turkish Cultural Foundation World Affairs Council. He also was inducted into the South Carolina Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He previously taught in Hungary as a Fulbright Scholar. Today he is the academic dean of Linden Hall, the nation’s oldest girls’ boarding school, in Lititz, PA.

The day includes welcomes from SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach and Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Diane Allen, as well as the roundtable discussion “What Honors Education Is—And Should Be.”

Admission is free and the public is invited. Former SU Honors students are asked to RSVP in advance. For more information call 410-677-5070 or e-mail

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