Each spring, PUC students are asked to vote for a professor who has had a tremendous impact on the lives of their students. This year, hundreds of students went to the polls during a two-week period in April, and on May 8, the results of the vote were announced at the annual Educator of the Year colloquy program.
"Because of the grace, sweetness, and courage with which he lives and works among us, PUC is pleased to name Dr. Robin Vance as 2008-2009 Educator of the Year," said Nancy Lecourt, academic dean and vice president of academic administration.
The honor was a surprise to Vance and, he admits, overwhelming. Fellow professors offered up a roast, a student gave a tribute, and Vance's brother, Rodney, surprised him with a humorous and touching slideshow that followed Vance from childhood to present.
"It was really neat to have some heart-felt appreciation from the students, and that was very touching to me," said Vance. "I was uncomfortable being the center of attention but enjoyed the affirmation from the students. That was very nice."
The youngest of three brothers, Vance grew up in California and earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from Loma Linda University. After completing his Ph.D. in physiology, he began teaching at Union College in Nebraska. He taught there for twelve years and chaired their Division of Science and Mathematics before being offered a job at PUC.
"PUC always had such a strong academic reputation, especially in biology, so I was very eager to be part of that. And with my graduate work in physiology and PUC's strong reputation in the pre-professional programs, such as medical and dental, I felt my background would be helpful. So I thought it was a good fit," said Vance, who also specializes in neurobiology.
Vance did prove to be a good fit for the college; he is not only chair of the biology department, he is also one of the premedical program advisors. It's a role that Lauren Harris, senior biology major, appreciates.
"He's not just a great teacher, he's a great advisor as well," said Harris during the ceremony. "His door is always open, and he's always ready to give advice and listen and support in any way he can."
Harris closed her tribute with a quote from Cullen Hightower. "'The true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.' And this is true of you, Dr. Vance. My fellow students and I have gained so much from you as a teacher and as an adviser. So you are truly worthy of being called Educator of the Year. Thank you."
As part of the honor, Vance received a check and a place on the illustrious list of educators of the year. As is tradition, he will also be required to give a speech at a special colloquy next year — a program that is highly anticipated on campus. For a person who shuns the limelight, it's a lot to absorb.
"It feels great, but it's also very humbling," said Vance. "There are so many good teachers at PUC. So being singled out for special recognition — it's nice but you always wonder if you really deserve it. There are so many others that are deserving. But it feels good."
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