Benedictine University is bidding farewell to six professors – Ralph Meeker, Eileen Clark, Bernard Toussaint, Soyon Lee, Edward Winkler and Alexey Shukin -- who have combined for more than 230 years of service. The six, who were honored at a reception May 2, have been appointed Professors Emeritus and will retire in May at the conclusion of the academic year, leaving a lasting legacy of service and inspiration for the many students who were lucky enough to grace their classrooms and benefit from their many University-wide contributions.
Toussaint, a professor of Philosophy, is retiring after teaching at Benedictine since 1971; Lee, a professor of International Business and Economics, joined the Benedictine faculty in 1974; and Shukin founded the master’s program in Clinical Psychology after coming to Benedictine in 1986.
Edward Winkler, joined the Science faculty at Benedictine as an assistant professor in 1979 and ascended to a variety of leadership roles including professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, President of the Academic Senate, member of the Health Sciences Recommendations Committee and academic advisor to Benedictine’s student-led chapter of the American Chemical Society.
Meeker began his 50-year affiliation with the University – first as a student of Physics and Mathematics at St. Procopius College in 1963. After earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree, he began a career at Benedictine in 1970 as an assistant professor of Physics, and later successfully managed a variety of leadership roles – from chairperson of the Department of Physics to dean of the College of Science.
His many contributions included coordinating the necessary materials for awarding the University’s first master’s degree – the Master of Business Administration – in 1976, and the University’s first Ph.D. – the Ph.D. in Organization Development in 1996. He was also responsible for applying and securing several million dollars in grant funding to support various academic and institutional programs over the years, such as the $1 million U.S. Department of Education Advanced Institutional Development Grant in 1975, which greatly influenced the University’s potential for growth.
“This was at a time when the entire annual institutional budget was about $6 million,” Meeker said. “So, the grant had a significant impact on new program development. In fact, one of the outcomes was the development and implementation of the first on-campus administrative computer system to support student records, financial management and fundraising.”
In 1978, Meeker and the late Rose Carney, Ph.D., successfully secured a $250,000 Comprehensive Assistance for Undergraduate Science Education (CAUSE) program grant from the National Science Foundation, which was used to expand a burgeoning Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science program. Meeker would eventually oversee the new program as chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science from 1988 to 1994 and as a professor of Computer Science and Information Systems up until his retirement.
Meeker also advocated for the hiring of full-time physics faculty with a background and research experience in biophysics to better serve an increasing number of students pursuing the life and medical sciences, and was involved in the initial planning that led to the construction of the Birck Hall of Science in 2001.
Meeker has received several notable awards for his accomplishments, including the Benedictine Life Award – the highest honor awarded to a University faculty or staff member – in 2003 for fostering a spirit of community, creating an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality and living the Benedictine values.
In 2012, he was presented with the Judith Ann Whinfrey Award for Leadership, for his distinguished record of leadership excellence, with a passion for fairness and evidence-based decision-making that helped shape the character of the University.
Although his plans outside Benedictine include traveling and visiting with friends in Florida and other destinations, both Ralph and his wife, Pam Meeker, plan to stay connected to the University.
“I will continue to follow Benedictine athletics and I do hope to continue serving out my terms on a couple of advisory committees of which I am currently involved for the Athletics department and the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum,” Meeker said. “I’m also always happy to interact with alumni, so I’ll continue to attend a variety of campus events that bring graduates back to campus.”
Clark began her career at Benedictine one year after Fr. Richard Shonka, O.S.B., received a National Science Foundation grant to purchase the University’s first Hewlett-Packard minicomputer. After four years as an instructor of mathematics, Clark became an assistant professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, eventually transitioning into associate professor of Computer Science as the B.S. in Computer Science program was developed and first offered during the 1978-1979 academic year.
Funding from the CAUSE grant dramatically changed the academic and administrative operations of the University – from a Unix-based time-sharing computing system to a new system dedicated to academic use – and Clark stepped into the role as director of Academic Computing in 1981.
From 1981 to 1996, Clark oversaw the development of computing systems and facilities, replaced the old time-sharing system, helped to establish microcomputer labs and a campus-wide network. When an Information Technology unit was established to oversee the new network, Clark returned to a more traditional role supporting faculty through technology training and education as coordinator of Learning Technologies.
In 2000, the University was awarded with a $1.75 million Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which among other areas of support, included the implementation of new technologies in the classroom. Through the grant, Clark became the professional development coordinator and up until her retirement worked to encourage and train faculty in their use of various technological learning tools to enhance their courses.
She helped oversee multiple changes to the University’s Learning Management System software and was a constant source for faculty support through the evolution of WebCT, Blackboard, and more recently with the adoption and implementation of Desire2Learn and the ongoing expansion of online classroom delivery.
When the grant ended in 2005, she returned as a professor and continued to provide training to faculty.
While Clark also has plans to travel and visit with family in places such as North Carolina and New York, she expects to stay in touch with the many friends of the University and attend special campus events.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2001-2011 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.