Bridgewater College will celebrate the 134 years since its founding on Tuesday, April 1, presenting three awards during the 11 a.m. Founder’s Day Convocation in the Carter Center for Worship and Music.
President David W. Bushman will recognize three faculty members for excellence in teaching and scholarship.
Dr. Charles Fleis, associate professor of world languages and cultures, will receive the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award; Dr. Melissa Hoover, associate professor of mathematics, will receive the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award; and Nan Covert, associate professor of art, will receive the Faculty Scholarship Award.
The Founder’s Day observance at Bridgewater commemorates the April 3, 1854, birth of Daniel C. Flory, who at age 26 began a new school at Spring Creek in Rockingham County in 1880. The school, first known as Spring Creek Normal School, moved to Bridgewater two years later and changed its name to Bridgewater College on July 12, 1889.
About the honorees:
Dr. Charles P. Fleis
Dr. Charles Fleis described his relationship with his students as a role in which he “works to continually inspire their pursuit of knowledge and self.” In receiving the 2014 Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award, which honors faculty who show “caring concern for students well beyond the role as teacher,” Fleis joins a distinguished list of Bridgewater faculty who have dedicated themselves to mentoring their students.
In his 10 years at Bridgewater College, Fleis, associate professor of world languages, has taught a variety of courses, including classes at all levels of Spanish and French; Bridgewater’s first-year seminar, PDP 150: Critical Thinking in the Liberal Arts; and a senior seminar for honors students. He specializes in French and Hispanic cinema, culture and literature.
In addition, he has served on numerous campus committees, including the committee on tenure and promotion, the council on education, and the executive board of the Philomathes Society, Bridgewater’s scholastic honor society. He is currently chair of the committee on campus diversity. Fleis is the faculty advisor for the BC Allies, a gay-straight alliance for students, faculty and staff that works to create greater awareness and advocacy for LGBTQ issues, and is the co-advisor for the BC men’s wrestling club. He is also the faculty academic liaison for the men’s soccer team. He worked with students and faculty to create the World Languages Club (combining what were previously separate clubs in specific languages) and continues to serve as faculty advisor for that club as well. “Whether I am working directly with a student group or organization, or working on an official campus committee, I am consistently thinking of how my work and decisions will benefit students most and the College as a whole.”
Fleis received an A.A. in modern languages from Northwestern Michigan College, earned his B.A. in public administration and Spanish and his M.A. in Spanish from Western Michigan University, and earned a doctorate in modern languages (D.M.L.) from Middlebury College in 2008. His previous positions include visiting instructor of Spanish at Ferris State University and instructor of Spanish and French at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He was the co-founder and co-director of the Southeast Arkansas Foreign Language Alliance Reaching Educators and Students and has made numerous presentations in his field.
Fleis commented, “I understand learning is a process. I don’t always expect that moment of realization or success to occur within a semester, a year or even during a student’s years at BC. What makes teaching rewarding for me is the opportunity to plant a seed and water it, hopefully inspiring the student to nurture that seed to germination and growth, whenever that may occur.” Fleis is devoted to inclusion and inspiring others in everything he does, whether in the classroom, part of campus activities or out in the community.
Dr. Melissa M. Hoover
“It’s very touching to be recognized for doing my job well. Teaching is all that I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Dr. Melissa Hoover, the 2014 recipient of the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award. In her 10th year of teaching at Bridgewater College, Hoover is deeply enthusiastic about teaching and the importance of showing that enthusiasm in the classroom.
Hoover stated that continual practice is key for students learning mathematics. She added, “I also strive to emphasize that communication is an important part of mathematics. The process one uses to get to the answer and the manner in which the answer is communicated are just as important, if not more so, than getting the right answer.” She believes emphasizing the possible real-life applications of communication in students’ future employment is also essential. The relationship building and opportunities to help students succeed in understanding the material are especially meaningful.
A summa cum laude graduate of McDaniel College, Hoover earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Virginia. She is a member of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and has reviewed journal articles and textbook drafts in her field. She was a fellow with Project NExT, a professional development program for new and recent mathematics Ph.D.s, and now serves as a consultant for the program, mentoring current fellows.
At Bridgewater College, Hoover, an associate professor of mathematics, teaches courses such as precalculus, calculus and at least one upper-level mathematics course each semester. “It’s unlikely that I will be able to convince all of my students to think that math is as beautiful as I think it is, but I have to try. If I can show students that the material they are studying is fascinating to someone, I think students are more apt to appreciate what they are learning.”
One of her most treasured moments was receiving a note from a former student who was beginning her student teaching. “She paid me two wonderful compliments that I’ll never forget.” Hoover continued, “First, she said that she appreciated that my courses were always challenging, and that she learned a lot as a result. Second, and more importantly, she also told me that she had learned from me what kind of teacher she wanted to be.”
Hoover lives in Charlottesville, Va. with her husband, Lance, and her daughter, Madden.
Prof. Nan R. Covert
Prof. Nan Covert said when she first heard she was the recipient of the 2014 Faculty Scholarship Award, “I was shocked and humbled.” Although she was quick to reiterate that she felt many of her colleagues were equally qualified for recognition, she stated that she was gratified the practice of the fine arts is being recognized as scholarship, on par with research, writing and other forms of scholarship that are more widely acknowledged. “My painting is my scholarship, and it’s heartening for visual artists to receive that recognition,” she said.
Covert holds a B.A. in history from the College of Charleston and an M.F.A. in painting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Prior to teaching at Bridgewater, she was a lecturer in the department of art at UNC Greensboro from 1991-1996 and was also an instructor at Guilford College in 1993.
In her 18th year at Bridgewater College, Covert teaches painting, drawing and art history, while continuing to create her own work as an artist. She said, “My roles as a teacher, artist and scholar all feed each other. They’re my life, and I can’t separate one from the others.” She has served as art department chair from 1997-2014 and was previously recognized by the College with the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award in 2005.
Covert believes that it’s essential to be an active practitioner of the arts in order to teach them, and she said the benefit is mutual – she also receives insight from her students as they work in the studio. She said, “I teach to pay it forward; I see it as carrying on the legacy I received from my art teachers, who were so influential in my life and work.”
Her recent exhibitions have included an on-campus exhibition, “Confluences,” featuring her paintings and department colleague Scott Jost’s photography, and a joint exhibition with her son James Covert, “Two Visions,” at the Beverley Street Studio School gallery in Staunton, Va. She received one of three prizes awarded for painting at a Mid-Atlantic juried show in Lexington, Va., in 2013 and took first prize in a Regional Juried Landscape Exhibition at Beverley Street in 2012. Covert has also taught adult painting classes at Beverley Street, including “Charting the Path from Visual Experience to Personal Expression.”
Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,800 undergraduate students.