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Thomas Jefferson Award

The Thomas Jefferson Award is given each year to a member of the William & Mary family for significant service through his or her personal activities, influence and leadership.

Award Recipients
Recent recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award
2021 - Virginia L. McLaughlin '71, School of Education
Award citation

Virginia L. McLaughlin, your service and influence upon the field of education, the university and the community have few parallels. Your 38-year career at William & Mary has been distinguished by authentic and transformative leadership, generous mentorship and selfless service.

As the first woman dean of the William & Mary School of Education, you spearheaded the construction of a beautiful and enduring home for our students, faculty, staff, programs and projects in education, and you ushered in a new era of prominence and influence for the school.

Generations of students and colleagues have benefited from your patient wisdom and steady encouragement. From your days as a teacher-leader in special education classrooms, to your service as chief of staff to President Emeritus Timothy J. Sullivan ’66, through your 18 years as dean of the School of Education, to now, as a deeply respected teacher and colleague, you have helped shape the careers of countless leaders in the education profession and beyond.

You have been a compelling voice in the field of education, forging collaborative partnerships across the university, state and nation. Your leadership helped unite the work of universities and K-12 schools, establishing William & Mary as a willing partner and trusted voice for practitioners and policymakers throughout the commonwealth. Appointed by then-Governor Timothy Kaine to the State Board of Education in Virginia, you were the first sitting dean of a school of education to serve in this influential role. You have been a passionate advocate for equity and a catalyst for change, expanding diversity within the faculty, championing women in education and advocating for inclusion practices in special education.

Over the course of your long tenure at William & Mary, your service has influenced nearly every corner of the university. From strategic planning, capital campaigns and accreditation to special task forces and standing committees, you have been an integral hand in shaping the character and trajectory of the institution.

Beyond the walls of William & Mary, you have been entrusted with leadership positions within education’s most esteemed organizations and honored with some of the most coveted recognitions awarded by the profession. You have also found time to be a selfless and dedicated contributor in the local community, serving on numerous committees and boards devoted to improving educational and health outcomes for children and families in the greater Williamsburg area.

It is our pleasure on behalf of William & Mary to honor you today with the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2020 - Heather Macdonald, Geology
Award citation

Heather Macdonald, in the classroom, across William & Mary and throughout the discipline of geosciences, you have been a force for generating new perspectives, knowledge and change. Always curious, interested and thinking about ways to improve and grow, your leadership has consistently connected people and inspired new ideas and solutions.

Your decision to pursue the scholarship of science education as a major line of inquiry, and to share this knowledge through published articles and continuing professional workshops and collaborations has resulted in wide application of creative teaching approaches and respect for alternative perspectives and learning styles. Your careful mentoring has changed the lives and career trajectories of countless students, junior faculty and colleagues at every level.

One example of your efforts is your help in creating the university’s undergraduate program in marine science, bringing together the excellence of Arts & Sciences students and the research expertise of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the companion Marine Science Teaching Fellows Program, which engages Ph.D. students in the undergraduate classroom. You also helped to found and secure funding for the Robert Noyce Scholars Program in the School of Education, which encourages talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers.

Furthermore, your service contributions to William & Mary have influenced the fabric and structure of our institution in ways that advance our highest aspirations. We note your three-year tenure as dean of undergraduate studies, nine years spent as chair of your department decade as co-director of the marine science minor program, as well as time spent serving as secretary of the faculty assembly, chair of the Faculty Women’s Caucus and your service on governance and advisory committees across the university.

Throughout your career you have received many of the most coveted recognitions awarded by the profession of geoscience education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and your alma maters. It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2019 - Silvia Tandeciarz, Modern Languages & Literatures
Award citation

Silvia Tandeciarz, since joining the faculty in 1999 you have pursued a career that honors Thomas Jefferson’s charge: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” You have established an international reputation as an eminent scholar of Latin American cultural studies, focusing on memory and human rights in Argentina. You have authored four books – including a volume of poetry – and more than a dozen articles, moving nimbly among cultural and literary studies, anthropology, history, visual, cultural, film and photography studies to explore how memories of violence and political repression re-emerge.

Your commitments to human rights and interdisciplinary have profoundly shaped the Hispanic studies program, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the university. In 1999, you led the design of the Hispanic studies major, an issues-driven curriculum grounded in cultural studies. You implemented a set of innovative course offerings taught in Spanish that provide challenging experiences for undergraduates at all levels of the curriculum. Long before the advent of COLL 300, you were developing innovative courses that enable undergraduates to engage in faculty-mentored field research outside the traditional classroom and academic calendar. These include the study-abroad program at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata; the National Security Archives in Washington, D.C.; the first faculty-led spring-break trip to the Arizona-Mexico border; and a program to South Africa – all projects related to your work in human rights and justice. You then worked with other Arts & Sciences faculty to extend these innovations into the institutional fabric of William & Mary, incorporating them into the new COLL curriculum. Many students have attested to the powerful difference your teaching has made in their lives.

You have established this remarkable record of achievement in scholarship and teaching while making vital service contributions, serving as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures three times, and in a number of other roles campus-wide. Your colleagues cite the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness and consideration that you bring to this service.

It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2018 - Joanne Braxton, English
Award citation

Joanne M. Braxton, since joining the faculty nearly four decades ago you have been a tireless and effective advocate for enlarging the traditional canon to incorporate drama, spiritual topics and elements of African history and culture. You have also opened our hearts and minds to new ideas, community engagement, underserved communities and collaborative projects that span the academic disciplines.

Your research and creative attention has focused on the literature and history of Africans in the Americas and rituals of remembrance. Your scholarly accomplishments in these areas include a published collection of poetry, four edited essay collections, a scholarly edition of the work of Paul Dunbar, a monograph titled Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition within a Tradition and a catalog of the Anderson Johnson Gallery.

Alongside these contributions, you have applied your knowledge and insights in ways that have transformed our curriculum. Beginning in the 1980s you worked to initiate changes leading to two historically organized courses in African-American literature; continuing with incremental course development, in collaboration with colleagues that helped to establish and shape our current Africana Studies program and strongly influence our American Studies program. Your recent work on narrative medicine has resulted in two new general education courses and a unique partnership with Eastern Virginia Medical School.

We also note your role in founding the William & Mary Middle Passage Project, exploring the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its effects; your continuing involvement in the William & Mary Lemon Project; and your tenacious advocacy in founding the Anderson Johnson Gallery Project in Newport News, which interprets local folk artist Anderson Johnson and offers other exhibitions and cultural events, and where you continue to serve as guest curator.

Your students and colleagues note that working alongside you is a surprise, a revelation and a journey of discovery. As you transition to emerita status at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, we know that your future work will continue that journey to the benefit of us all.

It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2018 Thomas Jefferson Award.

2017 - Sharon Zuber, English and Writing Resource Center
Award citation

Sharon L. Zuber, your selflessness, ethic of service, and dedication to advancing the educational and social missions of the university have had a profound and lasting impact on members of the William & Mary community and on our campus culture.

Your teaching has been cited as modest in style, ambitious in scope and warmly supportive of every student who crosses your path. Alongside your teaching of courses in writing, literature and documentary film production, you have trained hundreds of student peer tutors to work at the Writing Resources Center. Your trainees have commented on how exciting they found it to be introduced to contemporary theories about the teaching of writing, and how your guidance gave them confidence so that they could help others. You have also worked with dozens of faculty members offering May seminars to guide and inspire the most rigorous and effective teaching of writing in our first-year freshman seminars, and multimodal communications in our two first-year COLL curriculum courses.

We also note your record of scholarship. Among your nine video productions, usually made in collaboration with undergraduate students, is the celebrated They Live in Guinea (1996), telling the story of the fishing community of Guinea Neck on the Chesapeake Bay, which was honored as an official selection for the Virginia Film Festival and earned multiple awards. You have also published an edited collection of essays and a number of articles in peer-edited journals. And your collaborative work with faculty and students in disciplines far from your own, including biology, environmental science and chemistry, have garnered substantial outside funding in support of post-doctoral positions and student research.

That you have accomplished so much while serving in a variety of positions, culminating in your current role as senior lecturer of English and director of the Writing Resources Center, speaks to your abilities as an instinctive and visionary problem-solver. It also speaks to your values, in consistently taking on challenges in your own quiet and unassuming way, and seeing them through successfully.

It is our great pleasure to honor your exemplary contributions by awarding you the 2017 Thomas Jefferson Award.

View more recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award.