COMMENCEMENT: Outstanding Faculty and Staff for the Year

Published: May 01, 2006 | Read Time: 11 minutes


Eric Brown

Associate Professor of Art and Department Chair, Eric Brown is regarded by his colleagues and his students as an effective administrator and charismatic teacher. Thorough and thoughtful in his approach to leading faculty as well as collaborating with them, Eric has received nothing but the highest respect for his gifts as an artist, too. Students speak of how his approachability and in-depth knowledge of the field help them progress and grow. It takes a certain versatility and to move comfortably from teaching a technique course to an art history class to an introductory class. Eric possesses this ability in a way that is exceptionally motivating and inspiring to his students. He has a true attachment to his work as an educator; while following his instructions on drawing, students will also be hearing philosophical writings that asks question about life, death, and other deep issues that arise in-between. One of Eric’s colleagues says of him, “Eric is a friend of the muses and speaks under their influence.” Possessive of a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from Drake University, Eric’s work is frequently on exhibit in reputable galleries including the Springville Museum of Arts. His talent, technique and intelligence offer viewers the opportunity to share his imaginative vision. He recently gave a presentation titled
“The Two Cultural Necessities” at the prestigious Oxford Round Table in England and also offers an intriguing perspective on the popular modern book “The Da Vinci Code.” During the past few summers, Eric has organized and led educational tours of European countries for students and community for SUU’s Study Abroad program. Tourists from his group repeatedly cite his encyclopedic talent for telling stories of the people, places and the art in a way that made the experience for them, alive.

Jim Vlasich

Professor of History at SUU since 1981, Jim Vlasich has had a banner year in his scholarly efforts. He has had two books published! The first, “Pueblo Indian Agriculture,” offers the only documented history of the Pueblos, spanning four centuries. The book is being regarded as a groundbreaking history of the Pueblos, a vanguard piece on the subject covered. Thirty years in the making, the book means something special to Vlasich. He says of it, “In essence, this is my career you’re holding in your hands.” Vlasich was chosen by a review committee to give the annual SUU Distinguished Faculty Lecture on the subject of the Pueblo culture. The second book recently released is titled, “Horsehide, Pigskin, Oval Tracks and Apple Pie: Essays on Sports and American Culture.” This piece is an anthology of papers written by Popular Culture Association presenters which investigate some academic considerations in the world of sports. Vlasich, an officer in the Association, edited and compiled these papers into “Horsehide,” et al., and exhibits how sports have become an established area for research and publication, and how courses have developed in the field, too. This contemplation, kneaded with his lifelong love of sports, was manifested through his first book on sports history, “A Legend for the Legendary: The Origin of the Baseball Hall of Fame,” released in the late 80s. This event led to Vlasich giving a keynote speech at the first Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture in 1989 and an appearance on the “Today Show with Bryant Gumble.” Vlasich teaches history of the Southwest, American Indian studies and sports history, and is key in the design of many of the multicultural weeks on campus.


Associate Professor of Psychology, Steve Barney is regarded by colleagues, co-workers and students as an exceptional teacher, scholar and clinical psychologist. As a licensed and active practitioner, Steve brings a vast amount of practical experience to his classes on both a theoretical and applied basis. Students learn by interacting with real cases. Steve is a creative teacher. He uses a variety of methods and strategies to convey lessons which has proven to be a very important and exciting for students’ learning and subsequent opportunities. His scholarly activities are as outstanding as his teaching as he balances basic research with integration of information, and then application, so that students are integrally involved. His countless papers and projects have contributed to the field with national-reaching implications. His service on campus and in the community far exceeds reasonable expectations and significantly adds to the culture of the psychology department. He serves on many committees. He takes any and every assignment seriously. Steve has been a dramatic key in the current process of the institutionalization of the pedagogical tool of service-learning. He recently received a statewide award for the advancement of service-learning. Steve’s attitude is supportive and constructive, and his impact on the efficiency and worth of the institutional mission, commendable.

Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, Rea Gubler has been teaching at SUU for 28 years. In their evaluations of her, students say time and time again how they are grateful for the chance to be in Rea’s class. Her impact is in the way she teaches, they say, citing how she covers subjects in depth, gives real-life examples, and implements vivid teaching tools to reinforce ideas and motivate students to interact. Her supervisors consider her a critical component of the department. A team player who works effectively with her peers, Rea has been a key force in the growth of the Early Childhood Development and Family and Consumer Sciences programs. She organized SUU’s “Week of the Young Child” program, is a past director of the childcare program at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and has written dozens of papers on everything from how to reduce the effects of bullying through prevention, to how to promote literacy. Not only an advocate for the child, she is also a sincere supporter of her colleagues and SUU as a whole. A member of numerous professional associations, she has also garnered several grants that deemed her research and work worthwhile. All around, Rea is an excellent educator who really teaches and helps students become better practitioners.

Professor of History, Larry Ping has been teaching on modern European history, the Third Reich, and ancient Greece & Rome at SUU for the past 16 years. A quiet but witty professional, Larry is valued by students and co-workers for his up-to-date lectures and broad knowledge. He maintained over the last several years, the highest average of student enrollments in the department in his upper division courses. He holds an exceptionally high rate of approval in student evaluations; his median scores last fall were 100 percent! One student commented, “I simply and thoroughly enjoy his classes. I never wanted to miss a lecture.” A two-time SUU Distinguished Lecturer, Larry’s latest achievement is the publication of his first book, titled, “Gustav Freytag and the Prussian Gospel: Novels, Liberalism, and History.” Freytag—a highly-respected historian and novelist in Germany in the 19th century—was influential in shaping opinion for his generation of liberals, and Larry, who has been has been scrutinizing Freytag for a quarter of a century, has done an excellent job of getting beyond the clichés of German culture, and into the real mentality and motivations of the people in this book. “This is how I try to teach history, too,” Larry reveals. “I try to lead my students down an investigative path asking and answering questions about why or how something happened.” AYale University professor and editor sought out Larry, and solicited him to write this book as part of the North American Studies in 19th –Century German Literature Vol. 37. The editor said, “Ping reexamined Freytag’s historical writings and found more critical facets in them than had previously been appreciated.” Certainly, Larry exemplifies that prized combination of teacher and scholar in a way that bridges one world to another, all to the benefit of his students.

Lea Decker

As Degree Audit Coordinator in the Registrar’s office, Lea maintains the degree audit system and advises students on the status of their academic path. In fact, she recently rebuilt the entire system from scratch while still preserving program’s history. Lea has worked at SUU for 17 years; she is a vital asset to faculty, her fellow staff and students. She possess the vast knowledge one needs to efficiently advise students on fulfilling their academic and graduation goals. She gently keeps students on track to graduate. Her careful examination has saved students time, money and worry. Making sure they take the right classes at the right times is sometimes a sensitive subject for students; Lea works with them with patience and caring. She has a sincere interest in their welfare. It is obvious to all she comes in contact with that Lea loves her job. Her dependable cheerfulness and optimism is an inspiration to many. One co-worker acknowledged, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a bad mood, even when she was ill.” Lea’s wonderful sense of humor is the life of her office; her co-workers testify that it is a direct contributor to their positive morale in their office area.

Randy Humphries

The Network Systems Administrator, Randy has worked at SUU for nine years. Before that, he was a student here and earned his Bachelor of Science in Technology Education. Randy says, “As a student I loved the fact that I wasn’t just a number, my professors knew me personally. As a staff member, I love the fact that I have many, many other staff members I consider good friends.” His co-workers feel just as strongly about him and the asset he truly is for the whole University. Whether it’s a quick computer fix, a long painstaking software problem, or for just a laugh, Randy can always be counted on. He keeps so many areas and computer programs running smoothly across campus. One employee says, “Without Randy, we’d crash and burn!” Another echoes, “If we didn’t have Randy, we couldn’t do our jobs.” Quick to respond and resolve problems, or assist in teaching how to use new programs, Randy calls himself a computer nerd. “I fix computers and servers, and also try to fix people… well… help them with their program problems, that is,” he says. Although his hometown is Las Vegas, Nevada, he says he couldn’t imagine working anywhere else but SUU.

Dianne Werber

Secretary to the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dianne is known across campus to be a particularly dedicated and hardworking employee who truly cares about SUU. She has demonstrated professionalism and teamwork at SUU for the past 20 years. She accomplishes a tremendous amount of worthwhile work: she assists the Dean on the curriculum committee and the faculty development grant committee; she is the assistant director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service; and she is advisor to the student chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honor society of political science. In 2004, she was recognized by national office of Pi Sigma Alpha as one of the Best Advisors of the Year. She has continued to work effectively through many personal trials in her life, especially recently, and always has a sweet smile on her face as she asks others how they are. Clearly, Dianne’s sincere and deep caring makes a difference in the lives of her co-workers and students. She is very much loved and well-respected by both groups. Dianne’s positive contributions to the University these past two decades will inarguably endure and benefit SUU for many more years to come.

Blaine Edwards

Academic Advisor and Testing Coordinator in SUU’s Student Success Center, Blaine epitomizes exceptional service--to the University, the community, his profession, and students. He oversees the administration of several national tests (like the GRE, the MCAT and PRAXIS series) for hundreds of students from throughout the region each year. Most of this task is performed outside of his regular work week. He has given a lot of weekends to the program. He is a consummate professional with high ethical standards and meticulous attention to detail. His testing center audits are always stellar, thus SUU receives the highest ratings, too. Blaine is a student advocate. With a master’s degree in counseling, Blaine tutors, mentors, guides and advises with deep caring and sincerity. He is the lead advisor to undeclared students. He tutors on the job, and also in the community as a volunteer. He frequently conducts Career Decision-making Workshops at a variety of venues. Also active in Iron County Sherriff Search and Rescue, (he is a past commander), Blaine is a selfless server to so many he comes in contact with each day. For these and other reasons, Blaine is regarded as a distinguished, model representation of SUU. The institution is indebted and grateful for his service in the last eight years.

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