Werth honored for excellence in teaching


Alex WerthAnother Hampden-Sydney professor has been recognized for excellence in the classroom. Dr. Alexander J. Werth, Elliot Professor of Biology, is the 2011 recipient of The Virginia Foundation for Independent College’s Hiter H. Harris, Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The award recognizes Dr. Werth (center at right, with H-SC President Chris Howard and VFIC Chairman Robert Woltz) for his clear and abiding commitment to the craft of classroom teaching, the teaching-learning process, and the development of each student as an individual.

“I am truly honored and humbled by this award,” says Werth. “But the real significance is in affirming the value we place on teaching at Hampden-Sydney, where educating students comes first and foremost. What motivates me each morning are the many colleagues who have dedicated their lives to teaching, professors from whom I draw daily inspiration and advice. I’ve learned from the very best: Lee Cohen, Anne Lund, and countless others. But the best part of my job is spending each day discussing ideas with students and supervising their research projects, harnessing their enthusiasm and honing their plans. I get to learn from students every day. I can’t imagine a better job in the world.”

In announcing the 2011 Harris Award recipient, Robert Woltz ’71, chairman of the VFIC, noted that “the selection committee focused on four criteria in the review process: the nominee’s impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and, endorsements from colleagues and current or former students. We are pleased to recognize Dr. Werth for his 19-year commitment to the students at Hampden-Sydney College and around the country.”

The Harris Award was created through an endowment gift from the family of the late Hiter Harris, Jr., a leading Virginia banker and a member of VFIC’s board from 1973 to 1998. It includes a stipend to support the recipient’s scholarly research and professional development activities. The Harris family endowed the award to highlight the special features of VFIC colleges and universities by recognizing faculty members “whose professional history reflects a strong, clear, and abiding commitment to excellence in classroom teaching within the undergraduate liberal arts and sciences.”

A graduate of Duke University with a Ph.D. from Harvard, “Dr. Werth is an accomplished scholar who publishes extensively within his scientific discipline; he publishes articles at a rate that is laudable for a scholar at a small liberal arts college with an especially heavy teaching load,” says Dr. Robert T. Herdegen III, dean of the faculty at Hampden-Sydney College. “He is an extraordinary teacher, who teaches by example. Students see that he puts into practice the lessons that he gives them, demonstrating that one can gain full appreciation of the world in which we live only with a knowledge and understanding of sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. Students learn these lessons in his classroom, but they also learn by emulating the example he sets for them.”