Dean Joe Newton (right) and Marty Holmes (left), vice president of The Association of Former Students, bookend 2012 Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching winners (left to right) John W. Bevan, professor of chemistry; Bhaskar Dutta, professor of physics and astronomy; Jean Marie Linhart, lecturer in mathematics; and Casey J. Papovich, associate professor of physics and astronomy.


Nine faculty, staff and students within the Texas A&M University College of Science were recognized for recent outstanding accomplishments by Dean H. Joseph Newton at the college's annual Faculty-Staff Meeting and Awards Presentation Tuesday (Oct. 30).

The ceremony, which honors college award recipients and serves as a forum for new faculty and staff introductions, was held in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium inside the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.

Dr. John W. Bevan (chemistry), Dr. Bhaskar Dutta (physics and astronomy), Dr. Jean Marie Linhart (mathematics) and Dr. Casey J. Papovich (physics and astronomy) were honored as recipients of The Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Awards in Teaching for 2012 for their commitment to education and contributions to their respective disciplines. Each honoree was awarded a framed certificate commemorating the occasion and a $2,000 check from The Association.

Staff members Rhonda Faust, Will Seward and Julie Zercher were presented with 2012 Outstanding Staff Achievement Awards. Established in 1995, the award commends the dedication, enthusiasm and accomplishments of staff throughout the college. Each received a plaque and a $500 check, also funded by The Association.

Faust, assistant department head in the Department of Mathematics with 17 years of service to the college, oversees all the fiscal activities of the department, from budget preparation, payroll and new faculty hiring to equipment purchases and infrastructure grant record-keeping. She also supervises the department's approximately 20 staff members. Her nominator describes her as "exceedingly intelligent, a self-starter, and [someone who] anticipates problems before they become too large" -- sentiments echoed time and again in her support letters. During the past decade, Faust has navigated the addition of roughly 25 new tenured/tenure-track faculty positions and overseen several major construction projects while seeing the department's grant funding double and its budget expand from $8 to $13 million. Colleagues cite her combined flair for taking the time to listen to people, a cheerful attitude and routine ability to do "so much more than her job description requires" for both her and the department's success.

Seward, a research instrumentation specialist in the Department of Chemistry with four years of service to the college, is responsible for the management, maintenance, and operation of the department's scientific machine shop. His nominators credit him for rebuilding and re-energizing the shop by acquiring new machines, hiring new staff and even expanding its scope of services with a new graduate instrument shop. Faculty who previously had no choice but to outsource their machine work view Seward as an absolute godsend to their projects, productivity and overall bottom lines. He is renowned in the department as well as the broader campus as "clearly a skilled craftsman" who works well beyond traditional business hours (often without pay) and is committed to the faculty as well as to the undergraduate and graduate students involved in the research enterprise. One student in Seward's basic machining course lauds his "cooperative personality" and his mastery in "creating an environment of confidence critical for communication with people of different scientific backgrounds."

Zercher, a business coordinator I in the Department of Chemistry with nearly eight years of service to the college, is responsible for the day-to-day accounting and financial support for more than 325 chemistry graduate students as well as a related $3 million annual budget. Her nominators say she regularly contributes innovative ideas and improvements to the university's FAMIS/MAESTRO accounting system and manages seamless coordination of local, research and state contract accounts across myriad systems and entities. Zercher also oversees the department's National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer program as well as details for the department's two American Chemical Society awards, the F.A. Cotton and A. Ian Scott Medals and Symposia. In describing her proactive problem-solving ability and dexterity in dealing with unexpected roadblocks as they arise, one colleague states, "She never sits back and waits for instructions, "readily pitching in for programs in and outside her purview and always without complaint, "even though faculty don't always make her job easy."

Seniors Jennifer Bryson and Amanda Wheeler each received the John B. Beckham Award in Science. Established in 1983 through the Texas A&M Foundation by friends and family of John B. Beckham in recognition of his 36 years of educational service to Texas A&M, the Beckham Award honors undergraduate students who go above and beyond to uphold the university's standards for achievement, integrity, and academic and extracurricular leadership. Winners each receive $1,750 and a commemorative medallion.

Bryson, a mathematics major from Albuquerque, maintains a cumulative 4.0 GPA and has been named to the Dean's Honor Roll every semester while enrolled in the College of Science. She is a member of the Texas A&M women's water polo club team as well as the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and has received both Academic Excellence and Association of Former Students scholarships. Bryson interned this past summer with the Department of Defense and hopes to continue her studies in number theory at Cambridge University after graduation.

Wheeler, a native of McKinney who is majoring in biology, also maintains a cumulative 4.0 GPA and is a student researcher in the laboratory of Texas A&M biologist Dr. Wayne Versaw. A delegate for the 2010 Annual Memorial Student Center Spencer Leadership Conference in Dallas, she has held leadership positions in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority as well as The Big Event. In addition to being a Dean's Honor Roll member, Wheeler has received the Julia Ball Lee Memorial Scholarship and the Association of Former Students Scholarship. After graduation, she plans to attend optometry school.

In addition to the award winners, Newton introduced new Dean's Office members, while heads of each of the college's five departments (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, and Statistics) also introduced their respective new faculty. Newton then delivered a State of the College address to conclude the ceremony.

A reception honoring all award winners and new faculty and staff was held following the presentation in foyer of the Mitchell Institute.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana


    The Department of Chemistry's Will Seward (left), the Department of Mathematics' Rhonda Faust (middle) and the Department of Chemistry's Julie Zercher (right) received congratulations from Dean Newton (far right) for their diligent work in their respective departments with the college's highest awards for staff in 2012.


    Jennifer Bryson (second from left) and Amanda Wheeler (third from left) were each recognized by Dean Newton (right) and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs Tim Scott (left) for their academic achievements with John B. Beckham Awards honoring the college's top seniors for 2012.


    Will Seward (right), pictured with his nominator, chemist Simon North.

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