JU’s 53rd Annual Faculty Awards

Misha Khan

Some of Jacksonville University’s most admirable professors were honored at the 53rd Annual Faculty Recognition even on March 25. Dr. Barry Thornton, professor of economics and a JU professor for 23 years now, was awarded Professor of the Year.

For Thornton, who has seen the business school change 180 degrees, teaching is the best job in the world. A job where he is allowed to meet intelligent people and do things the way he wants. The analytical reasoning his work consists of provides him with an opportunity to always come up with an answer, which to Thornton is the cherry on top.

“It is really nice to be recognized by my peers,” Thornton said. “I like to think that I tried the hardest in class and for the students to make a success out of their life and be happy. I want to keep doing exactly what I am doing right now.”

Four other faculty members were presented with awards for excellence in different areas. Dr. Mark Alarbi, associate professor of orthodontics, was bestowed with the Excellence in Teaching Award, something that is dearest to his heart.

“I felt really honored and was really excited about it,” Alarbi said. “It is recognition for the whole place. I am hoping to develop more as a professor and hopefully lead the school to more success.”

Alarbi specially enjoys the student-teacher relationship a private practice wouldn’t have allowed him. He finds the energy more exciting and feels that he is making a difference in somebody’s life. Alarbi expects his students to acquire professional ethics and to set high standards for themselves.

Dr. Richard Cebula, professor of finance, was awarded Excellence in Scholarship and Professional Activities. Dr. Cebula boasts seven-day workweeks and finds the award very gratifying. Been at JU only since 2010, being successful in a new environment is something positive about JU’s faculty. Cebula was directed towards teaching by his uncle, a famous chemist, and by the movie ”To Sir, with Love.”

“I really liked the professorial lifestyle and interaction with students,” Cebula said. “Also doing the research with a famous chemist, I decided this is something I enjoy doing and have never regretted the decision once.”

Cebula plans someday to be able to spend more time with his loving family and friends and expects his students to make a lifelong experience and use what they learn in their professional and personal life.

The award for Excellence in University Science was given to Dr. Ruth O’Keefe, professor of accounting. She had been at JU since 1982 and has seen the students develop over the years by becoming smarter, independent and more resourceful. She tries to engage as many students as possible in her classes while expecting honor, integrity and ethics from all her students. O’Keefe comes from a family of educators and takes her profession, and award, quite seriously.

“I love it,” she said. “I looked forward to coming to work. I am very thankful because I found my place. My plan is to keep teaching until the student evaluations say I am no longer useful. Students now are not afraid to bring in outside resources and ask a lot questions, and that to me is a lot of fun.”

The final award for Excellence in Community Service was presented to a worthy recipient, Professor Cari Coble, associate professor of dance. She teaches at Carver Center, where she teaches those students who wouldn’t be able to afford after school activities for enhancing their artistic talents. She even works with the JU dancers to get involved and provide to the underprivileged.

“It is really great, it’s good,” Coble said. “In the arts many of us are lucky to have the jobs that we have because of private donations and funding so even if the students graduate and decide not to pursue a career in dancing, I expect that they can still feel a part of the art society.”

The five creditable JU professors awarded this year are truly dedicated to their respective fields. Their hard work, intelligence, and attitude proves why even as a relatively smaller university, JU still has some of the best teachers who aim to provide their students with much more than basic education.