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April 15, 2007

Six Purdue educators receive 2007 Murphy Awards

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Six exemplary teachers were honored with 2007 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy at the April 15 Honors Convocation in Elliott Hall of Music.

The six honored educators were Patricia Hart, Christine Hrycyna, Robert May, Timothy Newby, Richard Thomas and Karen Yehle.

The Murphy is given annually in recognition of outstanding teaching in all phases of undergraduate instruction at the West Lafayette campus. The university's highest undergraduate teaching honor, the Murphy is accompanied by a $10,000 cash award.

The winners' names will be engraved in the Book of Great Teachers, a plaque in Purdue Memorial Union that honors the best teachers throughout Purdue's history.

The 2007 Murphy Award winners are:

Patricia Hart
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*  Hart, professor of Spanish. A faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures since 1987, Hart has been recognized for her teaching excellence by her department and her college. One of her students said, "The outside-of-class activities were awesome, especially the films, and also going for the class tour of 'Invisible Mexican Lafayette.' I wouldn't have known it was there otherwise!"

"She clearly understands that meaningful one-to-one interactions between students and their professors can be life-changing experiences," said Paul Dixon, department head. "Over the years, I have observed her pour much time and effort into such interactions. In this sense, she is surely one of the most generous members of our department."

Hart said she enjoys "helping students 'read' the world by reading great literature and film. I want them to imagine what it feels like to be someone else. The best test of this is when we can go from studying plays and poems in class to crossing the Wabash River and performing service projects in Spanish in the local community."

Christine Hrycyna
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*  Hrycyna, associate professor of chemistry. The Murphy will be added to a long list of teaching awards Hrycyna has received since coming to Purdue in 2000. Fellow faculty in the science school have recognized her with the "Teaching for Tomorrow Award" for her contributions to undergraduate teaching and research and the Arthur E. Kelley Undergraduate Teaching Award. In 2003 she was named Outstanding Teacher of Undergraduates in the science school and was elected to the "Top 10 Teachers of the Year."

Students consistently rank her teaching of "Principles of Biochemistry" 4.8 and 4.9 on a 5-point scale. One student said, "I have taken biochemistry before and I've never been able to understand it until now. She made learning fun and a lot easier. I was so excited that I understood what was being taught that I found myself wanting to learn more."

"I care deeply about undergraduate education and I enjoy my interactions with students both in and out of the classroom, as well as in my laboratory," Hrycyna said.

Robert May
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*  May, professor of history. On the faculty since 1969, May often has students on waiting lists to enroll in his courses. A spring 2007 history course wound up with 59 waiting students after the 80-seat classroom filled to capacity. May, who during the past 10 years has taught 10 different undergraduate courses, also anchors the honors courses in history for the College of Liberal Arts.

"I feel especially good about my teaching on those occasions when I can tell it has provoked inquisitiveness among my students and an understanding that the pursuit of history is more about questions than answers," he said. "Although I take a great amount of satisfaction on those occasions when I feel I have been lecturing effectively, I probably experience my most fulfilling moments as a teacher when in-class scheduled discussions about the books and articles I have assigned my students are going especially well.

"I never leave campus for home with more satisfaction than on those days when my students have become so engrossed in arguing a historical issue drawn from the readings that they do not notice or do not want to notice that the class period has expired."

Timothy Newby
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*  Newby, professor of curriculum and instruction. Newby accepted his Murphy after having received a significant number of teaching honors in his 23 years at Purdue. Previous awards include a fellowship in Purdue's Teaching Academy, the Outstanding Teaching Award from both the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the College of Education, and the Purdue Teaching for Tomorrow Award for senior resource faculty.

His focus of research and teaching is primarily on enhancing student learning and motivation through instructional strategies and technologies.

One of Newby's students said, "What an amazing semester. I don't even feel like I'm in school when I attend lab or lecture. It's hard to believe all the material we've covered in such a short time."

"Teaching is one of those select professions that as you give, you get even more in return," Newby said. "As a teacher, I am often in a position to challenge my students, but I also get to present different perspectives and viewpoints, give feedback and suggestions, and even offer encouragement and motivation. In most cases, by the time my students 'get it' I have had the opportunity to learn many things."

Richard Thomas
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*  Thomas, professor of visual and performing arts. At Purdue since 1980, Thomas has been singled out for a Murphy award because of his teaching experience, teaching evaluations and student mentoring.

"His dedication and success in the classroom is exemplified by accomplishments his students demonstrate in areas of sound and in life," said David Sigman, head of the Patti and Rusty Rueff Department of Visual and Performing Arts. "Professor Thomas is a valued colleague and has earned the utmost respect from faculty, staff and students for his teaching and creative endeavors."

Thomas said he reaps great rewards from his lasting relationships with students.

"During a student's academic career, the work and relationships are so intense that you take the interpersonal camaraderie that is so essential in a collaborative art like theater for granted. My least favorite time of the year is May, when a number of these students graduate, and I realize how much I'll miss them. But the real meaning and enjoyment comes when they unexpectedly return with tales of conquering the world, often with families in tow, and cheery stories about how much everything we suffered through together at Purdue meant to them, and how grateful they are for the opportunities that Purdue provided."

Karen Yehle
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*  Yehle, clinical associate professor of nursing. On the nursing faculty for 15 years, Yehle has received the nursing school's Student Council Excellence in Teaching Award for clinical teaching and twice received the Junior Class Excellence in Teaching Award.

Yehle has piloted two ongoing teaching projects designed to increase student confidence and knowledge transfer between different settings and stages of patient care. One of the two projects introduces juniors to community care, which is a major focus during senior year. Students make follow-up home visits with patients they have cared for in the hospital and view their patients as members of the larger community. Yehle's instruction as ranked by her students consistently scores in the high 4's and with one group of students a 5 on a 1-to-5 scale.

She also served as a co-faculty adviser to the Purdue Student Nurses' Association from 2000 to 2005 and she participates in nursing student organizations as well as donates to them.

"Developing innovations and helping students make connections between theory and their professional practice is one of my goals," Yehle said. "When I look into the students' faces and see that they are engaged in their learning, that is exciting."

Contact: Christy Jones, (765) 494-1089,

Source: Jim Vruggink, director of special projects, (765) 494-2086,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Patricia Hart, at center, a professor of Spanish, volunteers as faculty fellow for the Wiley Hall Southwest 2 "Wiley Coyotes" student group. Here, Hart and students gather in the Wiley lounge before going to Tarkington dining hall. Hart is a 2007 winner of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Christine Hrycyna, an associate professor of chemistry, is in the lab as biochemistry undergrad Paul Wrighton prepares a gel. Hrycyna is a 2007 winner of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Robert May, a professor of history, is a 2007 recipient of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Timothy Newby, at right, a professor of curriculum and instruction, visits with former students Amy Hufford and Brad Mitchell. Both undergraduate students were working in the College of Education open computer lab in Beering Hall. Newby is a 2007 winner of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Richard Thomas, a professor of visual and performing arts, addresses his Theatre 553 class in Pao Hall of Visual and Performing Arts. Thomas is a 2007 recipient of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching.  (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Karen Yehle, at center, a clinical associate professor of nursing, demonstrates the proper use of an insulin pen to nursing students Rachel Echert, from left, and Allison Couwenhoven at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Yehle is a 2007 winner of a Murphy Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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