Inaugural event honors legacy of two professors

An annual award and lecture launched in January rewards professors for scholarly work and at the same time gives a “shout-out” to the College of Arts and Sciences and its positive mission.

Paul Baggett

Paul Baggett

One professor is rewarded with the J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar Award and in turn gives the Herbert Cheever Jr. Liberal Arts Lecture. The combination recognizes the excellent work of a current professor by invoking the names of two professors who became legends at State—Hendrickson and Cheever.

Cheever and Hendrickson were longtime faculty members and administrators at State.
•    Hendrickson served as head of the Department of Political Science from 1957-1988.
•    Cheever was a professor of political science from 1968-2000, department head for nine of those years, and finally dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1992-2000.

“The whole purpose of this was to create an annual event that faculty and students within the college could rally around in the process of creating identity and cohesion—to better understand and appreciate what a liberal arts education is about,” said Dennis Papini, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Papini and Mary Arnold, head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, organized the first award and lecture. It was held in the Volstorff Ballroom in early January and attracted 220 people.

The College of Arts and Sciences, comprised of 16 departments, is unique among the six degree-granting colleges at State for its variety. But that variety and vibrancy also has become something of a curse.

“Our college is so big and has so many departments in it that it hasn’t really had that kind of identity that, say, nursing or pharmacy has,” Arnold said. “For instance, if a student in our Department of Journalism and Mass Communication did something particularly outstanding, the recognition would be for the department but would not acknowledge that it’s part of this bigger unit called the College of Arts and Sciences.”

What the J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar Award and Cheever Liberal Arts Lecture do is bring faculty, students and the community together so they can learn about the work and research done by the award recipient from the recipient himself or herself.

Any faculty member within the College of Arts and Sciences is eligible, but they first must be nominated. Paul Baggett, an assistant professor of English, was selected as the first winner of the award.

His lecture, “Pushing the Frontiers of Gender and Genre: South Dakota Women Writers,” focused on several writers dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Baggett drew from examples of his own work, which is either in the process of being published or has been published in books such as “South Dakota Women,” “Dictionary of Midwestern Literature” and “Action, Influence, and Voice: Contemporary South Dakota Women.”

Baggett’s focus was to highlight contributions from past and present Native American writers and authors from the 1990s to the present.

“What he really did was present at an ‘every persons’ level,” Papini said. “Why should we care about these authors in South Dakota? How does reading their work affect how we think and feel about ourselves and this world in which we live?

“That is what the liberal arts provide you with—these discovery tools that allow you to better understand yourself and the complexity and beauty and simplicity of the world around you,” Papini continued.

Baggett echoed that theme, adding that the liberal arts are misunderstood.

The Hendrickson and Cheever families join Paul Baggett (center, front row) and Dean Dennis Papini (right, front row) for a photo following the January event.

The Hendrickson and Cheever families join Paul Baggett (center, front row) and Dean Dennis Papini (right, front row) for a photo following the January event.

“It’s really about education that is inclusive of many ideas, open to intellectual exchange,” he said. “It’s what the founding of the university is about.”

Baggett is excited for faculty from other departments to be acknowledged for their contributions in future awards ceremonies and lectures. He hopes people from multiple disciplines will be recognized so that people can see the richness that State and the College of Arts and Sciences has to offer.

“I also think it’s important that it works as an incentive for faculty to do interesting work and be recognized for it,” Baggett said. “So many of us do interesting things on campus … working so hard that we don’t take opportunities to celebrate the stuff we do. So credit the dean and the administration for trying to help us do that.”

The opening portion of the January award ceremony and lecture was dedicated to the families of the professors that the lecture and award were named after. Papini presented plaques to Susie Hendrickson, wife of the late John Phillip Hendrickson, and to the family of Herbert Cheever Jr., who was unable to attend the evening’s festivities because of bad weather.

Of the award and lecture, Arnold said: “It’s a chance to bring together the whole college, both those who are still working and those who were part of the college before, and recognize the importance of scholarship, of research or creative work within our college.”

Shawn Minor

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