CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University announced that university faculty and staff were honored for their dedication at a convocation ceremony on Monday ahead of the Fall semester.

According to the announcement, Dr. David Craig, associate professor of physics was named 2023-2024 Magister Optimus while Diane Brice, WT registrar, received the Clarence E. Thompson Staff Excellence Award.

“Convocation is the event across higher education that marks the official beginning of another academic year,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations. “Today, we will recognize exemplary teaching and service, be inspired as we envision the future, and prepare for fulfilling the educational mission of West Texas A&M University.”

“Rural folks produce the food, fuel and fiber that powers our state and nation,” WT President Walter V. Wendler expressed at the ceremony. “Values such as hard work, personal responsibility, regard for others, and family prosperity sustain industries that sustain metropolitan America. We not only serve the Texas Panhandle, but we are here and similar to other rural counties across the nation and the world.”

In addition, Richard Smith, assistant vice president for risk management and director of Academic and Research Environmental Health and Safety, and Candice Copeland, assistant director of advising services, also received staff excellence awards.

The Magister Optimus winner received, according to officials, is awarded to an individual who achieved the following criteria:

  • Taught at WT for at least six consecutive years;
  • Displayed expertise in their subject area;
  • Incorporated innovation, flexibility, and use of evidence-based teaching methods; and
  • Has “an ability to instill a hunger to learn in their students.”

Craig is “very passionate about science literacy and sharing science with everyone, especially those outside the scientific disciplines,” Yarbrough said, “and is known for bridging points of contact between disciplines as a common guest lecturer and participant in non-science courses.”

Craig, according to the announcement, has mentored students through the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA Project which gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in radio astronomy at the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.

“I know some of the people who’ve won the award, and they’re fantastic teachers,” Craig said. “I’ve worked with them some interdisciplinary lectures or parts of courses. And it’s a great honor, and it’s also very humbling. You know, I feel like I still have a little work to do.”

The Thompson Award was named after a former mayor of Canyon and was given to Brice, who was hired as the WT registrar in 2020 after a tenure at Amarillo College.

“She is always available to everyone who needs her at WT,” wrote Renee Ingersoll, assistant registrar. “She works diligently to improve processes that better serve the students, staff, faculty and departments. The hours she has spent outside a 40-hour work week to get things updated, online and easier for everyone is unmeasurable.”

“Oh my goodness, I have a wonderful staff, and I appreciate them so much,” Brice emotionally said. “And I appreciate the hard work of the Provost’s office in helping me and our office, as well as making sure our students have a very rich experience at WT.”

Officials noted that WT classes will begin on Aug. 21 while Move-In Day will take place on Thursday and the welcome weekend is set for Thursday to Saturday.

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