C. Thomas McCollough, Nelson D. and Mary McDowell Rodes Professor of Religion, has been named the 2012 Kentucky Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
For 2012, Professors of the Year were named in 30 states and the District of Columbia. CASE and the Carnegie Foundation select state winners through a rigorous judging process. McCollough, who was selected from nearly 300 professors from across the United States, is humbled by the award.
“I have been working at the art of teaching for a number of years. I am committed to being the best possible teacher, and to have an organization of the stature of the Carnegie Foundation recognize my efforts with this award is at once very meaningful and astonishing,” he says. “I am well aware that I am surrounded by very gifted colleagues at Centre College and to multiply that by the many colleagues at the other fine places of higher education in Kentucky, it is indeed astonishing that I was selected.”
McCollough has taught at Centre since 1980. He has held the Rodes Professorship since 2002 and received the Kirk Teaching Award in 2009. His areas of expertise lie in the history of Christianity and Christian thought, biblical history and archaeology and the contemporary Middle East.
Since 1985, McCollough has been the assistant director of archaeological digs in Sepphoris, Israel, which Centre students often participate in during the summer term. In the early 1990s, McCollough and his students aided in uncovering rare amulets at Sepphoris estimated to be around 2000 years old. In 2002, McCollough also became the assistant director for the archaeological excavations of Khirbet Kana.
McCollough is co-editor of “Archaeology and the Galilee: Text and Context in the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Periods” (1997) and has several other books forthcoming. He recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship to support his research and publication of the excavations at Sepphoris.
Beth Glazier-McDonald, Associate Dean of the College and H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion, finds McCollough thoroughly deserving of the honor.
“I believe that Tom respects students in the classroom and recognizes that what he’s there for is not just a right answer. He is there for an exchange and an engagement that helps evolve everyone’s dialogue and thinking,” Glazier-McDonald says.
For McCollough, the joy of teaching comes from tackling subjects with students.
“I love inhabiting the world of scholarship. I also love a rough and tumble exchange of ideas. I am nurtured by the energy and excitement of emerging scholars,” he says. “All of these I encounter in the act of teaching and, so, reap many rewards when I walk into the classroom, meet students in the office or lead students abroad to work in archaeological excavations or explore exotic foreign lands.”
“I think that what has made Tom such an incredible presence in the classroom is that he has found the right balance between trying to steer students and providing them the space to think through the arguments by themselves,” says Glazier-McDonald. “What is exciting for Tom is seeing students come to a different kind of understanding. They may end up right back where they started, but in his classes, Tom takes them on a journey.”
McCollough has found that being a professor not only calls for teaching, but also for continuous learning.
“For most of us who pursue graduate education and earn a Ph.D., the primary goal was not teaching but engaging the discipline of choice. As a result, teaching at the college or university level is an ongoing enterprise at learning and crafting this most demanding task of effective teaching,” McCollough says. “I have learned much from students and colleagues and perhaps the most important lesson has been one of humility.”
CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been naming U.S. Professors of the Year since 1981. The program is sponsored by a number of organizations associated with higher education—principally among them TIAA-CREF, a leading financial services organization and retirement system.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports improvements in American education.
CASE is a professional association serving educational institutions and professionals at all levels working in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas.
For a complete list of this year’s winners, click here.