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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Gaskins, McNamara honored with highest faculty awards

Published: April 15, 2011
Section: News

Professor Richard Gaskins, the American Studies-affiliated director of the Legal Studies program, and Professor Eileen McNamara, full-time American Studies and Journalism instructor, won the top faculty awards Thursday at the annual presentation faculty meeting.

Gaskins was named the winner of the 2011 Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, an award that, according to the meeting’s presentation, is given to “not just an exceptional teacher, but also one who has had a significant impact on students’ lives as a mentor, adviser and friend.”

Gaskins has been teaching at Brandeis since 1994, with prior experience that includes an associate deanship at the New School for Social Research. He received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California and earned both a PhD in Philosophy and law degree at Yale University. Beyond both American Studies and Legal Studies, he has taught classes in departments ranging from the Philosophy, Business, and African and Afro-American Studies departments.

Gaskins led a group of 18 students last summer on the university’s inaugural study abroad program in The Hague, in the Netherlands. He taught international law and criminal justice for the six-week program and mentored while the students participated in a mock trial competition against international lawyers–and won.

McNamara, a former columnist from The Boston Globe and a Pulitzer Prize winner, was awarded the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. McNamara joined the university in 1995 and began teaching full-time in 2007. She attended Barnard College and graduated from Columbia University’s first-ranked School of Journalism. While continuing to write, currently for Boston magazine, she teaches journalism practices and ethics.

Both Gaskins and McNamara, though affiliated with the same department, also teach many of their minors’ classes, Legal Studies and Journalism, respectively. Both were lauded by students throughout many of their successive course evaluations that culminated in their winning some of the university’s highest honors.

The other most prestigious awards were given to Professor Tory Fair of the Fine Arts (sculpture) department, who won the Michael Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching that is given to a tenure-track member. Fair is a graduate of Harvard University and received her Master’s of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art. She accepted a tenure-track position at Brandeis in 2006, after starting at the school in 1997. An artist in residence and coordinator of the post-baccalaureate studio art program, she teaches sculpture and drawing courses with the titles of “Introduction to Drawing,” “Three-Dimensional Design,” “Blurring the Boundaries,” “Implicating the Body in Sculpture,” “Senior Studio,” “Sculpture Seminar”, and “Intermediate Sculpture.”

Professor Michael Willrich, a history teacher, won the Dean’s Mentoring Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Students for the graduate program. Willrich, who teaches both graduates and undergraduates, received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and joined Brandeis in 1999. His areas of expertise are United States social and political history, with special attention to legal history, urban history and the Progressive Era (1890-1920). He teaches American Political History and other legal history courses.