Faculty Honored with 2020-2021 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award

Yellow flowers bloom in front of Richards Stadium and the Union

The Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award seeks out and honors teachers who uniquely inspire the full potential of each student. This award is given to Davidson College faculty members judged by their peers to display an exemplary love of teaching.

Professor of Economics Dave Martin

The generosity this professor has shown to students and colleagues for decades far surpasses even the spirit of care that we all take for granted at Davidson. “Integrity and heartfelt commitment,” “humble and dedicated,” and “incites wonder and amazement in my abilities and what I’ve learned,” are among the words that glimmer in the letters from students, alumni, and alumnae who over the years have raved about this professor’s extraordinary generosity and commitment to them as students and human beings.

From mentoring Center for Interdisciplinary Studies majors and honors theses, organizing book discussions with students, attending student talks at conference halls a few hours away from campus, engaging in research, and attending each scholar-athlete’s sport events, students rave about our honoree’s accessibility and unwavering support well beyond office hours.

One alumna recounts: “What makes [this professor] extraordinary is not just the ability to push students in the way they need it most, but also the desire to be there with them along the way… he displayed confidence in me even (and most importantly) when I did not believe in myself. [This professor] nurtures the intellectual growth of students in the gentlest, yet most fervent way possible.”

“He treats all of his students with dignity and respect, whether we demonstrate mastery of the subject or whether we need lots of detailed explanations and practice,” one student recounts. Yet another student attests, “While [this professor] has been there for the celebrations, [this professor] has endured the setbacks as well.” An alumna states: “He is never too busy to help students. There was one night when he met me after my work-study at 11 p.m. to get me back on track.”

Students write about the lifelong mentorship they receive from this faculty member, who is there for the “nitty gritty” of their journey. Even after graduation, students benefit from his humanity and sage counsel. One alumna writes: “I know he is someone I can contact at any time in my life and for any reason. His office door is always open for all students. As a young person beginning life after college, I can think of little that I appreciate more than this kind of support.”

Alumni attest to how their current success is due to this professor’s guidance and patience. They are grateful for the critical thinking and effective writing they have learned from him. An alumnus currently teaching at Duke University attests, “His class is what motivated me to pursue a PhD in economics after graduation. He was the most devoted professor and mentor I met at Davidson.” This alumnus says that now, after all these years, he is even more in awe of him.

Our honoree’s selfless service and dedication as a teacher seeps into every aspect of his service at Davidson. He meets regularly with junior faculty for several hours each week to ensure that they are thriving. He mentors them to become exceptional teachers. As one faculty member puts it, “He is the most caring mentor a junior (and even not so junior) faculty member could ask for.”

For over three decades of supporting students through the ups and downs of their journeys, realizing their potential even when they lacked confidence in themselves, for pouring his soul into teaching, and bringing out of the best version of the students and faculty members he mentors, we are honored to present the 2021 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to Professor Dave Martin.

Professor of Physics Mario Belloni

Great teachers push students to grasp complex material while preparing and guiding them to success. The professor we honor combines mastery with humility, strength with empathy and serious purpose with humor.

To turn complex subject matter within a challenging discipline into a manageable, fun endeavor is the recurring theme in the many letters from students and alumni in support of our honoree. One former student tells of not just being made to feel welcome from the first day in this professor's class and during office hours, but being made to feel capable. Another student writes, "I put off taking (the course) because of pure fear ... little did I know it would become my favorite course and best performance" because of the instructor's "teaching style and wholesome enthusiasm." Another student describes this professor's passion for the subject and for students as "truly infectious."

Exceptional concern for students is apparent in letters that detail an engaging classroom method and genuine care for students personally and academically. And this, one writes, is a blessing because the courses deal with such complex material. As another states, "(this) is an enthusiastic teacher who knows the answers to all our questions and has effective office hours despite it being packed with ten or more students waiting both inside and outside the door." Still another student says this professor "always makes time to answer everyone's questions, even staying late on campus to finish helping students. Seeing how hard [this professor] worked for students made me want to work as hard to make him proud." 

And our colleague's personal concern for students reaches beyond the classroom. One student writes that while dealing with an unrelated academic setback subsequent to taking the course, he "didn't judge me or make me feel any worse ... [but] took my problem seriously and counseled me on what my next moves should be," adding that other students were treated "with the same respect and empathy." As one alum writes, "I will honor this teacher's legacy as professor, mentor and parent-figure by treating all my future endeavors with similar enthusiasm, compassion and leadership."

This professor models and encourages professional achievement, collaborating on projects and research with students and faculty alike and receiving national recognition for effective interactive teaching methodologies. One student describes this person as "the epitome of what it means to be a professor," one to whom many apply the acronym GOAT: "Greatest of All Time!"

For his skillful teaching methodologies, extraordinary patience and generosity with students in both introductory and advanced courses, professional collaboration at the highest level with students and colleagues alike and ability to make subjects that are as intimidating as quantum physics not only comprehensible but fun, we proudly award the 2020 Hunter Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to Professor of Physics Mario Belloni.

Professor of Political Science Susan Roberts

Students respect and love this professor’s teaching so much that it can be said that some of them major in the professor’s courses instead of in the department. One alum wrote, “Each of six courses I took was challenging and engaging, thanks, in large part, to her ability to read the room and understand how to effectively challenge particular students in each class.” Another noted, “Despite teaching courses that naturally sparked heated and controversial debate, she was able to successfully moderate class discussion in a way that both encouraged and questioned all viewpoints presented.”

Given the tempestuous subjects this professor teaches, and the fact that Davidson encourages the expression of diverse opinions, modeling openness in the classroom is of extreme importance, and students noted that they always felt comfortable and safe in this professor’s classrooms.

“The classes taught me to seek out all sides to an argument,” one wrote. “To analyze [diverse] perspectives, and to use the sum total of that scholarly endeavor to inform my world view.”

This professor “has a phenomenal ability to take incredibly complex material and explain it to students,” another said. Another alum declared that this professor is “A master of student-centered learning; one who understands the idea that the best learning occurs when it is self-motivated.”

The love of teaching is so strong in this professor, that more than one alum noted, She “oozed a love of teaching…[and] brings [that love] to the classroom every day.” That passion was obvious even to another who decided to attend Davidson College after he visited the campus during his last year of high school and met this professor. “Unlike any of the other professors I met that weekend, she was able to sell the school, the athletic program, and the community with sincerity and honesty.”

Students and alumni noted the ways in which concern for their well-being was exhibited outside the classrooms, not only in checking on their mental health, but taking time to attend their extramural activities. “Her persistent pursuit of my overall development as a student and as a person enabled me to succeed at Davidson. More than a teacher, here was a friend to me throughout some of my tougher times, helping me see the bigger picture, and to keep in mind that my Davidson experiences were mere building blocks for the happy and fulfilling lives all its graduates seek.”

During what another alumnus called, “one of the saddest times of my life,” his final semester, when his beloved grandfather became ill, this professor “was a pillar of comfort and support as I grappled with his decline, accommodating adjustments in my schedule so that I could be with him. The effects of his loss still exist today. Yet, out of it came a life-long friendship with her.”

This year, when so much has had to be re-ordered, another student wrote, “I particularly appreciated this professor’s flexibility in rescheduling due dates that would benefit the students.”

“I feel so blessed to have had the chance to study under and work with her at Davidson,” an alumna wrote, adding “She is one of the kindest, cleverest, and strongest individuals I have ever encountered. A remarkable role model for all young women at Davidson, she is certainly one of mine. Among a brilliant faculty that collectively possesses an unrivaled love of teaching, I can think of no one who more deserves this award.”

For her superior abilities as a teacher, advisor, friend, and a public voice for Davidson College that brought a measure of intellectual acuity to the political arena during the last election cycle, Davidson College is pleased to announce that the 2021 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award goes to Professor Susan Roberts.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Assistant Dean for Research and Creative Works Nicole Snyder

High expectations and unconditional support are primary elements in the formula this talented professor uses to promote student success. Students describe how this faculty member enables them to overcome self-doubt, feelings of intimidation, and fear of failure. As one student shared, “I doubted my ability to succeed in the class,” but this professor’s “encouraging approach helped me to understand the material and build my self-esteem.” A faculty colleague noted, this honoree balances “being firm and demanding, yet kind and patient … going above and beyond in providing a holistic educational experience.”

An alumna reflected, “This professor’s “infectious personality and passion for teaching leave a lasting impression on students.” Another former student agreed that this teacher brings an “infectious energy to the classroom that instills a desire to learn and master new information.” Appreciation for the time and energy this exceptional teacher devotes to creating an inclusive class environment is widespread. By integrating techniques that engage, empower, and encourage the learner, this professor “truly embodies … a love of both teaching and learning.” This professor’s commitment to teaching extends well beyond the classroom. Indeed, many student letters focused on the mentoring they received because of this professor’s extraordinary availability at times when they needed it the most. One student stated, “Never has a professor been so invested in not only my education, but also in me as a person. I feel so comfortable talking … about academic challenges, accomplishments, and even daily life struggles.” Another commented that this professor “wants to know our personal goals and challenges” to “better … contribute to our learning.” 

The honoree’s attentiveness to student needs was never more important than in spring semester 2020, when classes shifted from on-campus to online. One student expressed gratitude for the way this faculty member “created a seamless transition in a tumultuous time and eased the minds of many as we headed into the uncertain future.” She commended this professor for replacing the original class meeting times with multiple, small group Zoom meetings that accommodated “different time zones, family situations and internet accessibility” and for scheduling individual Zoom meetings with each student every week.

This faculty member’s teaching accomplishments are complemented and enhanced by her successes and achievements as a widely recognized research scientist. Students who are mentored in this professor’s research lab comment that she often recognizes the potential of her students before they recognize it themselves. One of her students remarked, this faculty member “never discriminates when selecting students for her research lab, but she gives everyone equal opportunity to pursue their passions and demonstrate their abilities.” Students who join her research team thrive in a cohesive, collaborative environment where they can conduct original investigations at home and abroad, attend scientific conferences, and publish papers. Students describe these opportunities as life changing and affirming of their career aspirations.

Whether inspiring students to love organic chemistry, mentoring students to research questions vital to human health, or advising Posse Scholars and chemistry honor society members, this professor motivates students to reach goals they never believed possible. One alumnus summarizes how this professor exemplifies all of the traits of an outstanding teacher: “Never have I met a teacher more passionate about her field of study, more inspired to instill that passion in her students, more accepting and compassionate to these students, or more dedicated to her students’ ultimate success and well-being.”

For understanding her students’ hopes and dreams, for challenging those students to become better students and better people, and for being the mentor students hope to emulate, we are proud to present the 2020 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to Professor Nicole Snyder.