Every year, before recipients of the Sherrerd Teaching Prize step up to receive their award from the president, they first hear from their former students.
The annual Sherrerd Teaching Prize presentation, which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 24, honors three Smith faculty members specifically for their outstanding teaching.
This year’s Sherrerd Prize recipients are Andrea Hairston, Louise Wolff Kahn Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies; Susannah Howe, director of Design Clinic and senior lecturer in engineering; and Douglas Patey, Sophia Smith Professor of English Language and Literature.
The Sherrerd Prize presentation, at 4:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Carroll Room, is open to all in the Smith community. A reception will follow the presentation in the Wilson Atrium.
Speaking on behalf of Andrea Hairston will be Monique Robinson ’09, a theatre major and working actor in New York City. For Susannah Howe, Liz Isenstein ’11 will visit campus from South Deerfield. And married couple Jessica Bumpous ’03 and Alyson Shaw ’04 will travel to Smith from their home in eastern Massachusetts to speak on behalf of Doug Patey.
For students who have been called on to give such presentations at recent Sherrerd Prize ceremonies, it’s an invaluable experience.
“Presenting for Professor Berkman’s Sherrerd Award was one of the most enriching experiences of my Smith career,” notes Rachel Garbus ’13, who gave a humorous introduction of Len Berkman, Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Professor of Theatre, when he won the Sherrerd Prize in 2011. “Having an occasion to celebrate superlative teaching was also an opportunity to give back, not only to Professor Berkman for his incredible gift to us, but to the whole of Smith, for providing us with such a rich community of scholarship.”
For Sarah Iverson ’14, who spoke for Susan Van Dyne, professor of the study of women and gender when she won the Sherrerd Prize, also in 2011, it was a chance to express a deep gratitude for what she learned in her professor’s class.
“I got to share the qualities that I love about her in the classroom with the wider Smith community,” she said. “It was an honor speaking on behalf of Professor Van Dyne.”
For Iverson and Garbus, the annual Sherrerd Teaching Prize exemplifies their reasons for coming to Smith: the college’s unyielding emphasis on great teaching.
“The Sherrerd Award is so important because it recognizes the effort that certain professors make to go above and beyond,” says Iverson. “At Smith, I have been able to form real relationships with my professors because they see students as their first priority.”
For Garbus, it’s an appreciation that has grown since her departure from Smith.
“The ways we are shaped by that community—one that pursues knowledge for the pure, unadulterated value of knowledge itself—do not always become clear until we have left Smith,” she explains. “I am constantly discovering how I have been shaped by my time there.
“Being a part of Smith means forever being a person of insatiable curiosity, one for whom the questions never go unanswered and the answers never go unquestioned. The Sherrerd Awards are a celebration for those who help us unlock that in ourselves.”
The Sherrerd Teaching Prize was established in 2002 with a donation to Smith by the late Kathleen Sherrerd ’54 and John Sherrerd. Their donation was given with the specific purpose of initiating an annual prize to recognize outstanding teaching at Smith.
Since the first awards in 2004, 38 Smith faculty members have been honored with the Sherrerd Prize. Recipients receive a monetary stipend and recognition on an honorary plaque on the wall of the Neilson Browsing Room.