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Campus News

Collins Fellows, Distinguished Teaching Professor Honored

(September 14, 2004)

Glenna D. Spitze, Collins FellowGlenna D. Spitze, Collins Fellow

Dr. Glenna D. Spitze’s service contribution to the University at Albany, academic disciplines, and communities has been such that, in 2002, she was promoted by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York to the rank of Distinguished Service Professor. This past spring, the Collins Fellows voted overwhelmingly to recommend her to Interim President John Ryan for this award, based on her service commitment to the University at Albany itself.

Spitze has been instrumental in strengthening the quality – both academic and structural – of Sociology and Women’s Studies, the two departments in which she holds academic appointments. She has worked tirelessly in leadership positions in both, and her colleagues in each have given strong testimony of the results. Spitze also has been a faculty associate in the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis, the Ringel Institute, and the Institute for Research on Women. However, the Collins Fellow award recognizes University-wide service, and Spitze has been a true campus leader in that regard.

The Senate’s Council on Promotion and Continuing Appointment (CPCA) is generally recognized as the most time-demanding on its members. Spitze has served on CPCA for five years, including service as chair for the past two academic years. Both the time demands and the level of responsibilities, literally on the careers of one’s colleagues, are enormous. Spitze’s quiet, strong, and analytical leadership has been recognized by CPCA

membership and Academic Affairs leadership alike as being steady and calming in the face of any controversy. Her contribution to this critically important governance process has simply been superb.

Spitze has worked arduously within the governance structures of the College of Arts and Sciences and within the committee structures of the University Senate, including such memberships as the Graduate and Undergraduate Academic Councils, the Faculty Mentor Program, the Phi Beta Kappa Selection Committee, the most recent Search Committee for the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Distinguished Service and Teaching Professor Review Committee.

David P. McCaffrey, Collins FellowDavid P. McCaffrey, Collins Fellow

Several years ago, the question was raised by a former president during one of Distinguished Teaching Professor of Public Affairs and Policy David McCaffrey’s many recognitions: “My God, David, when do you sleep?” He is, after all, a Distinguished Teaching Professor, who has published three books and a host of refereed articles, and who now is being honored as a Collins Fellow in recognition of a career of extraordinary University-wide service. McCaffrey is a graduate professor who chose the year during which he was chairing the University Senate to add to his teaching load two undergraduate courses through Project Renaissance. When asked why he chose that particular year to do so, he responded that he “…felt it was time to expand my teaching portfolio.” It was during this same time that he was also teaching his normal full graduate load within his department and chairing the highest number of doctoral dissertations in his school.

McCaffrey seems to gravitate only to those assignments that require the greatest time and energy commitments. In addition to chairing the University Senate, he has chaired the Educational Policy Council (EPC), and then served on EPC. He has served continuously on such governance bodies as the Council on Promotions and Continuing Appointments (CPCA), the University Resources and Priorities Advisory Committee (URPAC), the Senate By-laws Review Committee, and the Distinguished Service and Teaching Professorship Review Committee.

His colleagues have been most eager to point out not just the amount of his service, which is amazing, but the quality of it, which is superb. McCaffrey brings to every leadership position he assumes a sense of quiet energy, enormous patience, and a splendid sense of ethics. True to his discipline, he also has the skill to take a staggering amount of data, synthesize it, and present it in a relevant and usable form. This wonderful ability, when wedded to his outstanding character, makes him an individual whose counsel is sought and whose word is trusted by colleagues throughout the University.

James R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching ProfessorJames R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor

James R. Acker epitomizes that the best teaching professors are often also the finest scholars and University citizens. His teaching is simply superb; there is no other way to describe it. He is accorded by his peers as the most demanding of the faculty in the School of Criminal Justice; still his courses overfill on the first day of registration each semester, solely because of the quality of the educational experience he offers his students.

At the same time, he is a superb scholar, acknowledged as the expert in the United States on the subject of the death penalty, yet one of his colleagues, himself a Distinguished Teaching Professor, wrote about him: “He has spent his entire career within the school putting students first, and reminding the rest of us that in the best of worlds, this is where priorities ought to lie.”

In her letter nominating Acker, Dean Julie Horney wrote: “…(e)veryone with any connection to Jim – colleagues, graduate students, and undergraduate students – agrees that he is simply one of the world’s great teachers.”

Distinguished Professor Of Criminal Justice Hans Toch wrote: I cannot conceive of anyone who more obviously qualifies for promotion to the Distinguished Professorial rank. In evaluations, he is consistently rated as outstanding, with many students wanting to rate his teaching beyond the high point in the scales. Jim brings to the classroom the discipline of his law background, tempered with an encyclopedic understanding of social science-related issues. Our students, therefore, receive a unique blend of legal thinking and the social-scientific approach to addressing problems of the criminal justice system. Student evaluations consequently gush with enthusiasm. Typical of recent comments, “unbelievably committed,” “he is the king of helping students,” “overwhelming dedication to graduates and undergraduates.”

Distinguished Teaching Professor Graeme Newman described Acker’s integration of research and teaching as follows: Without a doubt, he is the best teacher I have ever known. His devotion to his students, incredible creativity in the classroom, and amazing rapport with students of all levels and talents, are just superlative.

Professor Acker is not only an inspiration to his students; he is an inspiration to his colleagues. In fact for years he single-handedly carried the burden of developing and keeping afloat our fledgling undergraduate program. Personally, I thank him in my heart every day I enter my office for what he does for the students and faculty of our school.

The best quote of all came from one of Acker’s students, who wrote of him: “It has been my experience that no one leaves his classes without feeling intellectually challenged.”