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Leonard Gambrell Receives Teaching Excellence
Award from UW Board of Regents
MAILED: Sept. 3, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Leonard Gambrell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is a recipient of the 2002 Regents Teaching Excellence Award.
“This whole thing has me reeling,” Gambrell said of the award. “It’s very difficult to put into words what I feel. To be honored for doing what I loved doing is a very nice bonus.”
The excellence awards recognize some of the UW System’s finest faculty and reflect “the UW System’s vigorous commitment to teaching,” said UW System President Katharine Lyall.
Students come to UW-Eau Claire expecting to be challenged and respond best to the faculty who do routinely challenge them, Gambrell said of his motivation to continuously improve his teaching. And the university as a whole values quality teaching, he said.
“Being told regularly, in various ways, that my teaching performance and skill development are important meant that I was able to work in a professional, challenging environment in which I always tried to reach deep within myself to try to find one more way that I might get a complex set of ideas across to my students,” said Gambrell, who retired from UW-Eau Claire in June after 36 years of teaching.
“Engaging in these practices becomes or creates a standard that we simply assume as our responsibility to our students, our colleagues and to the institution. UW-Eau Claire is a place where many faculty take these challenges seriously,” he said.
Gambrell said his goal when teaching is to ensure that students are engaged in the course and to help them understand the concepts that he has deemed important.
“If I have done my job right, students can continue to learn, on their own, about my particular subject matter for the rest of their lives,” Gambrell said. “Experience has taught me that developing the capacity to think is at least as important as the specific content of the course.
… These are lifelong learning skills valuable in all walks of life.”
When describing Gambrell, many of his students and colleagues note his enthusiasm for political science and teaching, and his love of helping students understand complex issues.
“Dr. Gambrell is one of the most dedicated individuals to the profession of teaching and the field of political science at UW-Eau Claire,” said Erin Brandt, a 2002 UW-Eau Claire graduate. “He takes a marked interest in his students, pushing them to excel beyond their perceived abilities. His enthusiasm for the subject inspires students to pursue political science as a major and as a career beyond the university.”
Another former student said Gambrell’s dedication to his students continues to inspire him several years after graduation. “As I now start on the path toward earning a Ph.D. in international relations, I look to the example set by Dr. Gambrell as my benchmark of success,” said Marc Hutchison, a 1998 UW-Eau Claire graduate.
Faculty said Gambrell inspired them to be better teachers. “In Leonard Gambrell, I found someone who made me think about issues in ways that made me a better teacher and in ways that have undoubtedly affected my students,” said Michael Fine, professor of political science.
Gambrell is a scholar who enjoys sharing his knowledge, Fine said. “Len has a lifelong interest in teaching and learning about war and peace,” Fine said. “… I want to emphasize how much he integrates the work on his scholarship with his classes. It would be impossible to separate the two. For Leonard Gambrell, studying war and peace is teaching war and peace.
“This extends not only to the conventional classroom … It is impossible for an important world event to pass us by without a local radio or television station calling to interview Len. It appears that long ago he decided to not say ‘no’ when asked to speak to community groups.”
In recent years, Gambrell has added a new dimension to his teaching by leading groups — including UW-Eau Claire students and community members — in tours of Vietnam, said Stephen Gosch, a professor of history who team-taught a course on the Vietnam War with Gambrell.
“Teaching the Vietnam War course with Leonard for the past 20 years has been one of the highlights of my professional life,” Gosch said. “He has taught me a great deal about the War, about teaching and about living a meaningful life.”
Gambrell, who joined UW-Eau Claire’s faculty in 1966, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oklahoma State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
Winners of the $5,000 awards will be honored during a Sept. 13 ceremony in Madison.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: February 4, 2003