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Dr. Rebecca E. Drenovsky, professor of Biology and associate dean for Graduate and Professional Programs, is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Faculty Award.

The award is given annually to a faculty member who has made a significant contribution in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service. The award is the highest honor that John Carroll University bestows on a member of its faculty.

Read Drenovsky’s first-person reaction to receiving the Distinguished Faculty Award in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic below.

Drenovsky has been teaching at John Carroll since 2005. Her areas of research specialization include plant ecology and physiology, with a focus on plant-soil interaction. She has served as department chair for Biology since 2016 and associate dean for Graduate and Professional Programs since 2019.

An award reception is customary following naming the annual recipient of the award. Although current affairs restrict such a gathering, an appropriate time in the future will be determined to present Dr. Drenovsky with the honor.

First-person account

By Dr. Rebecca Drenovsky

This award means so very much to me. When found out, I was on the phone with Mike Martin (Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics, and Health), and I believe I stopped talking mid-sentence and said, "I just got an email from the President … I should open that..." Even though I knew I had been nominated, with everything else going on, I had not really thought about it, and so the news was such a surprise. I think that I blurted out on the phone, "I just won the Distinguished Faculty Award!" I was so happy to be able to share that moment with such a dear colleague, especially since it is such a very strange time right now.  Initially, the news took me aback--literally made me speechless. All I could think was that I was chuffed!  

I think the hardest part has been not being able to celebrate with students, colleagues, family, and friends in person.  It's an honor that will only happen once in my career, and it is based on relationships I have built over my years at John Carroll. Not being able to share this award with them has been strange, to say the least.

My family did host a Zoom party for me this weekend. Since they knew that Commencement was not happening in May, they hosted a commencement of sorts -- there was some pomp and circumstance, I wore my regalia, my parents gave speeches, my sister wrote a commendation, and my seven year old nephew narrated a presentation about me as a scientist. Afterwards, we all laughed because it was the most any of us had dressed up in over a month. It was also the most we had been "together" since the winter break.

I think the most meaningful part of the award has been reading the letters of support that were included in my dossier, particularly those from students. Right now, working remotely and feeling the strain of the global challenges we face, it can be difficult to feel the connection to the broader university community. However, the letters brought me right back to why I chose this path and why I love this work -- it is the relationships that you build, the mentoring that is possible, the good times you share, the burdens you help carry, and all you learn along the way.