CONWAY, Ark. (June 3, 2021) — Two Hendrix College professors
have been named to distinguished professorships. Dr. Jennifer Peszka and Dr.
Carol West will be formally installed at a convocation scheduled for Aug. 26.
The professorship Peszka will hold, the Virginia A. McCormick Pittman Distinguished Professorship, was established in 1981 by
Dr. Margaret Pittman, a 1923 Hendrix graduate who made world-changing
contributions as a research scientist. Pittman was the first woman to head a
major research lab at the National Institutes of Health, where she helped
develop the vaccines for typhoid, cholera, and whooping cough. Peszka will be
the fifth faculty member to hold this professorship, following Albert M.
Raymond (1981-1988), Bruce Haggard (1989-2010), Stephen Kerr (2010-2015), and Margaret
“Peg” Falls-Corbitt (2016-2021).
Peszka’s nominators cited the quality and scope of her teaching,
research, and involvement with various facets of the Hendrix community in
recommending her for a distinguished professorship.
“She routinely works with students as they complete Odyssey
projects that help them explore their passions and as they complete internships
to help discern career interests, and she is an excellent career mentor to
those students, many of whom keep in touch with her after they graduate from
Hendrix. Dr. Peszka’s contributions to the life of the College are similarly
impressive, and reflect her ongoing commitment to be an active member of our
community,” they wrote. “Jennifer clearly sees her teaching as something to be
shared in and out of the classroom—with her students and her colleagues—and the
entire Hendrix community is better for her willingness to share her gifts as a
Peszka holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Southern
Mississippi, both with an emphasis in general and experimental psychology, and a
Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Washington & Lee University. Her
research deals primarily with sleep, including the effects of sleep deprivation
and sleep hygiene. She served on the committee that developed the Odyssey
Program, has twice chaired the Department of Psychology at Hendrix, serves as Marshal
of the College, and is secretary of the College’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, one
of only two in Arkansas. In 2015, she was named Arkansas Professor of the Year
by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Her current course topics include
statistics; learning; sensation and perception; behavioral neuroscience; and sleep
From 2011-2014, Peszka co-held with her departmental colleague
Dr. Jennifer Penner the Julia S. Mobley Odyssey Professorship, which they used
to study the relationships between dating and mating decision-making and sleep.
She currently holds the Charles Prentiss Hough Odyssey Professorship with
anthropologist Dr. Anne Goldberg; they have examined the role of sleep and
social relationships to healthy aging in “blue zones,” areas of the world where humans
have longer lifespans.
The professorship West will hold was instituted in 1977, the
year she began her career at Hendrix. Named for Harold and Lucy Cabe to
recognize their generous and sustained support as friends of the College, it
has been previously held by Robert W. Shideler (1977-1980), Arthur A. Johnson (1980-1990),
John A. Ziegler (1991-1998), Garrett L. McAinsh (1999-2008), Ian T. King (2008-2010),
and Lawrence Schmidt (2010-2021).
West’s nominators praised her long and notable career at Hendrix,
including her work in pioneering curricular change. “It is because Carol’s life
work as a member of this institution has so closely tracked—indeed, regularly
foreshadowed—the place it has become that we find her worthy of its highest honor,”
they wrote, noting that the entire Hendrix community has benefited from her
contributions, both within and outside the classroom.
“Carol recognized early on that we can’t just teach writing in
the abstract; we teach writing about something for some audience,”
they wrote. “By immersing her students in topics they didn’t yet know they
cared about, she enables them to learn what it means to have something to say,
a skill they will rely on throughout their later lives. Fittingly, Carol is an
active writer herself, publishing in the last three years alone two essays on
Jane Austen, both influenced by her classroom work.”
West holds a Ph.D. and two Master’s degrees in English from Yale
University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Franconia College. She
currently chairs the Humanities Area at Hendrix, has chaired the Department of
English multiple times, and was instrumental in the founding of the College’s
Africana Studies program, which she chaired for 13 years. West’s course
offerings include Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, African Novel, African
Film, Women and African Literature, Crime Literature and Film, Arthurian
Literature, and the Jane Austen Senior Seminar. From 2012 to 2015, she held the
Isabelle Peregrin Odyssey Professorship, which she used to focus on technology
and African Literature, guiding students through related study on campus, at literature
conferences, and abroad. She served for a decade on the board of directors of
the Africa Network, a national organization that promotes the teaching of
Africa in liberal arts education.
In 2016, West wrote a proposal that yielded a $89,270 U.S.
Department of Education grant supporting a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad trip to Rwanda that she led in the
summer of 2017. The project, titled “Understanding Rwanda: Culture, Education,
Development,” reached well beyond Hendrix, taking twelve K-12 teachers from the
Mid-South (Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi) and two Hendrix juniors who planned
to certify to teach in social sciences or humanities fields on five weeks of
intensive educational travel, lectures, meetings, and site visits in Rwanda. It
was one of six U.S. Dept. of Education-funded Fulbright-Hays Group Projects
Abroad to Africa for which West served as grant writer and, in some cases,
project director, from 1997 to 2017. Other destinations included Ghana, South
Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, and Gambia.
In addition to honoring this year’s distinguished professors,
the Aug. 26 convocation will recognize Dr. Alex Vernon, the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace
Distinguished Professor of English, whose installation took effect last year while the
pandemic precluded an in-person celebration. The ceremony will begin at 11:10 a.m.
in Reves Recital Hall, Trieschmann Fine Arts Building. (The venue may change
based on whether any pandemic protocols in effect on that date can be
implemented in that location.) Vernon, Peszka, and West join three other
faculty members who hold distinguished professorships:
Dr. John Krebs, the Willis H. Holmes Distinguished Professor of
Dr. Matthew D. Moran, the Elbert L. Fausett Distinguished
Professor of Biology; and
Dr. Lyle Rupert ’82, the C. Louis and Charlotte Cabe
Distinguished Professor of Economics and Business.
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College
consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts
institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools
That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and
rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous
college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been
affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.