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Two faculty take top end-of-year honors

May 13, 2003

During Austin Peays Spring Faculty Meeting last week, two women received the most prestigious faculty awards presented annually.

Dr. Allene Phy-Olsen, professor of English and director of the Honors Program, received the 2003 Richard M. Hawkins Award, while Dr. Sharon Mabry, mezzo-soprano and professor of music, was chosen as this years recipient of the Distinguished Professor Award.
May 13, 2003

During Austin Peay's Spring Faculty Meeting last week, two women received the most prestigious faculty awards presented annually.

Dr. Allene Phy-Olsen, professor of English and director of the Honors Program, received the 2003 Richard M. Hawkins Award, while Dr. Sharon Mabry, mezzo-soprano and professor of music, was chosen as this year's recipient of the Distinguished Professor Award.

The Hawkins Award recognizes a faculty member who has made noteworthy contributions to scholarship and creative activity. The Distinguished Professor Award recognizes exemplary professionalism with an emphasis on teaching.

After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky, Phy-Olsen earned her master's degree, education specialist degree and doctorate from George Peabody College, with a major in English at Peabody and minor in comparative religions at Vanderbilt School of Religion.

In 1962, she received a certificate in English as a Second Language from Georgetown University. Additionally, she completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Florence in Italy; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; Alliance Francaise in Paris; University of Strasbourg in France; University of Geneva in Switzerland; University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; Indiana University in Bloomington; and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

In his letter of nomination, Dr. Mickey Wadia, associate professor in the department of languages and literature, said Phy-Olsen “embodies the very spirit of research and critical inquiry, a hallmark of excellent scholarship.”

He describes Phy-Olsen as a professor “with enviable academic credentials and a breadth of international study and teaching experiences that span the globe…. and her travels have taken her, literally, to the four corners of the worldincluding Antarctica.”

He points out that Phy-Olsen has taught ESL at the United States Naval Intelligence School in Washington, D.C., as well as in Morocco. She has been a visiting professor at several notable institutions, including Vanderbilt University and Tulane University. In 1998 she was an exchange professor at Mid-Sweden University.

Saying that Phy-Olsen “has done much to encourage and foster interdisciplinary studies,” Wadia points out that she has served as the director of APSU's Honor Program since 1990 and was director of the Heritage Program during 1990-93.”

Phy-Olsen has published a rich tapestry of works. Recently, she had an article accepted for publication in “The Encyclopedia of World War I,” published by ABC-CLIO. Another article, “Holy Books and Ebooks,” was published in the January 2003 edition of the journal, “Against the Grain,” published by the American Library Association at the Citadel in Charleston.

In February 2003, several of her articles were published in “The Cyclopedia of Literary Places” (Salem Press). Other pieces have been published in “Cyclopedia of World Authors,” “Critical Survey of Poetry,” “Critical Survey of Drama” and “Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature.” Another article has been accepted for publication in “Cyclopedia of Historical Personages.”

Phy-Olsen's well-received book, “Mary Shelley,” was released recently as a paperback. A reviewer wrote: “Phy-Olsen combines wit, scholarship and a panache for the little-known to make this a compelling and entertaining read.”

Phy-Olsen's scholarly pursuits have resulted in literally hundreds of reviews for such national journals as “Forecast,” “The Peabody Journal of Education,” “The Romanist,” “Chalk Dust” and “The Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature.”

Perhaps Phy-Olsen is most proud of a work she edited, titled “The Bible and American Popular Culture,” with three chapters written in her own name. It is considered a pioneer study that helped spark an interest in the scholarly examination of religious influences on pop culture. A review in “The Oxford Companion to the Bible” (1993) called it “the best book on the subject.”

In conclusion, Wadia wrote: “Dr. Phy-Olsen is a highly dedicated teacher and one of Austin Peay's finest scholar-researchers. We are indeed lucky to have such an enthusiastic and committed intellectual on our faculty.”

Recipient of the Distinguished Professor Award for 2002-03, Dr. Sharon Mabry received a bachelor of music education degree from Florida State University. Her master of music degree and doctor of musical arts degree are from George Peabody College, now part of Vanderbilt University.

She also received a Performance Certificate from the Franz-Schubert-Institut in Austria.

Though she has taught a variety of courses within the music department, her primary duties have been to teach private voice and vocal pedagogy. She has been director of graduate programs in music since 1991. As artistic coordinator of the Dimensions New Music Series since its inception in 1980, she has brought more than 40 composers to APSU for lectures, performances and master classes benefiting students and the larger community.

Mabry's awards include a National Defense Education Act Fellowship for graduate study. In 1979 she became the first recipient of the Richard M. Hawkins Award for scholarship and creative activity, and she has received two major grants from the National Endowment for the Artsa solo recitalist fellowship and a recording grant. Her seven LP and CD recordings have received outstanding critical acclaim and have been aired on radio stations internationally.

Mabry has established a distinguished career as a recitalist, master teacher of vocal techniques and soloist with symphony orchestras. She has performed at international music festivals, premiering the works of more than 30 composers.

She has presented major performances in venues such as the National Public Radio “Art of Song” series, Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, Corcoran Gallery of Art and The National Gallery of Art, both in Washington, D.C., the International Congress on Women in Music at the University of Alaska, the International Music Analysis Conference in London, England, and at two national conventions for the National Associations of Teachers of Singing.

Since 1985, Mabry has been a featured writer for the National Association of Teachers of Singing “Journal of Singing,” contributing more than 80 articles with her column, which discusses trends in contemporary music. Additionally, she has written articles about women composers for “Pan Pipes” and the “New Grove Dictionary of Music.”

Her book, “Exploring Twentieth Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Performance and Repertoire,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2002. Reviewers have called the book “elegantly written, persuasive, eminently readable and informative.”

The greatest tribute to her teaching career is the large number of former and current voice students who have been awarded major fellowships at prestigious universities and have won regional and national competitions. Many are now professional singers and/or teachers at such universities as Ohio State University, University of Nebraska, Belmont University, Eton College and the State University of New York at Fredonia.

According to Dr. Allen Henderson, chair of the music department, Mabry has “dedicated
her career to students and exemplifies the best of what APSU has to offer in scholar, teacher and performer of the highest caliber.”