Benedictine faculty members honored for leadership, research and service

June 5, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ Four faculty members were named recipients of the 2016-17 Benedictine University Faculty Awards, including Martin Tracey, Ph.D., professor of Philosophy (pictured right), who was awarded the Judith Ann Whinfrey Distinguished Faculty Award for Leadership.

Faculty awards recognize significant achievements in the areas of leadership, research and service, which serve as models for all faculty members. Faculty members are nominated by members of the Benedictine University community (faculty, staff, administration and students). Each nomination includes at least three letters attesting to the exemplary teaching, research or service of the nominees.

The academic deans recommend the award winners, and the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs makes the final decision regarding the award recipient.

Whinfrey was a member of the board of directors of Hewitt Associates, chair of the board of Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, a board member of S&C Electric Company of Chicago and a trustee of Benedictine University until her passing in 2010. The award named in her honor recognizes a faculty member who has provided exceptional leadership during their tenure.

Tracey has served the University as director of the Scholars and Core Programs and currently serves as chair of the History, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Theology Department. He also helped to lead the revision of the General Education Curriculum and the University's Mission and Vision statements.

"Dr. Tracey is an outstanding example of a servant leader, of true humility, a quality that does not preclude an accurate and positive self-evaluation but that also honestly owns errors and keeps the limitations of all talents, however great, in perspective," said María de la Cámara, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Benedictine.

Also recognized among faculty were Jayashree Sarathy, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences), who was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award for Research; Alandra Devall, Ph.D. (Teacher Education Preparation), who was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award for Internal Service; and Robert McCarthy, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences), who was named recipient of the Scholl Endowed Professorship in the Health Sciences.

Sarathy is an assistant professor of Biological Sciences at Benedictine and holds a joint appointment at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received the Dean's Award in the College of Science for Research in 2015 for her work with her students as well as her outstanding accomplishments in the research area.

"In addition to her many publications and conference presentations, Dr. Sarathy's Benedictine students have presented at local and regional undergraduate and regional, professional and national professional meetings," de la Cámara said. "The honors received by her students speaks to her exceptional qualities as a teacher in the classroom and as a mentor to her students."

Devall has served as chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Benedictine for the past 10 years. The IRB reviews and approves all research involving human subjects in accordance with the regulations set forth by the National Institutes of Health.

"Dr. Devall has transformed IRB into an office that encourages and educates on the ethics of academic research, provides information on a well-designed and functional website, makes applications available electronically, engages board members and their reviews electronically, tracks the status of each application, informs parties as requested of their status and informs applicants of decisions in a timely manner," de la Cámara said.

The Scholl Endowment Professorship is a three-year award that provides funding for a faculty member to conduct research in his or her discipline. McCarthy's project, "Comprehensive Reconstruction of Vocal Abilities in Fossil Humans," seeks to determine when modern human-like speech abilities arose during human evolution and will involve working with 10-15 students.

McCarthy received strong support for this project from his former Ph.D. advisor and collaborator, Daniel Lieberman, Ph.D., currently serving as chair of Biological Sciences at Harvard University, and David Strait, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, with whom he has also collaborated.

Two other faculty members who have been serving the University in administrative roles were honored for their contributions as they prepare to return to the classroom full time.

David Sonnenberger, Ph.D., has served the University as associate provost of Academic Operations since 1998, except for one year when he also served as acting provost.

"Or as he calls it, 'Thespian Provost,'" de la Cámara said.

As associate provost, Sonnenberger served on the Provost's Council, was chair of the Academic Standing and Commencement Committees, assisted in mediation between students and faculty members, and faculty members and administrators as needed, and coordinated the budget process for areas within academic affairs.

Sonnenberger, described by de la Cámara as "the bedrock that supports not only the operations of the Academic Affairs area but also as a resource and support for multiple offices and individuals across all three campuses of this University," will return to teaching Chemistry full time starting next fall.

Tom Wangler, Ph.D., who has served the University as assistant provost for Assessment and Accreditation, will return next fall to teaching mathematics full time. As assistant provost, Wangler guided the development and implementation of program assessment plans, contributed to the development of the Ben2020 Strategic Plan, and served as the University's main point of contact with the Higher Learning Commission and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

"We are most thankful to Dr. Wangler for his outstanding service and collegiality during the last six years in areas that are quite challenging," de la Cámara said.

Benedictine also announced the promotion of 12 faculty members. Promoted to professor were: Deborah Cernauskas, Ph.D. (Undergraduate Business); Wilson Chen, Ph.D. (English Language and Literature); Joan Libner, Ed.D. (Nursing and Health); James Pelech, Ed.D. (Teacher Education Preparation); and Andrew Wig, Ph.D. (Physics). Cernauskas and Libner were also granted tenure.

Promoted to associate professor and granted tenure were: Bonnie Beezhold, Ph.D. (Nutrition); Hai Ri Han, M.F.A. (Fine Arts); Allen Legutki, Ph.D. (Music); and Jayashree Sarathy, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences).

Advanced within rank were James Ludema, Ph.D. (Values-Driven Leadership); Thomas Wangler, Ph.D. (Mathematics); and Allison Wilson, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences).


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, or visit

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