Lexington, Virginia • January 26, 2011
Two members of Washington and Lee University's faculty--Rebecca Benefiel, assistant professor of classics, and Domnica Radulescu, professor of Romance languages--have been honored with the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
The SCHEV award is the highest honor for faculty at Virginia's public and private colleges and universities, recognizing superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.
The two professors will receive their awards at a luncheon in Richmond on Feb. 17, when they also will join the other 10 recipients for an honorary introduction on the floor of the General Assembly.
"We are obviously delighted that SCHEV has recognized Rebecca and Domnica with this award," said Washington and Lee Provost June Aprille. "Through their accomplishments in the classroom and as active scholars and writers, both women embody the teacher-scholar model that we prize here at Washington and Lee."
Rebecca Benefiel, whom SCHEV designated a Rising Star, joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 2005 after receiving her Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard. She received her B.A. in classics from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and conducted additional post-graduate study in Rome.
Although the range of her expertise includes such varied topics as Roman law, early Christianity and ancient advertising, Benefiel has become internationally known for her work on ancient wall inscriptions, also called graffiti. In particular, her examination of the graffiti of Pompeii has resulted not only in her own numerous scholarly articles but also in popular articles about her work in such varied publications as USA Today, Science News and Smithsonian magazine.
"Even at this early stage in her career, Rebecca already knows Pompeian graffiti better than almost any other living scholar," wrote Rabun Taylor, a professor of classics at the University of Texas in Austin, in support of her nomination.
Benefiel has earned extraordinary praise for her teaching from both her colleagues and former students. "Her selflessness as a teacher, her earnestness as a friend, and her genuine and continued interest in the success of her students both inside and outside the classroom," wrote Matthew Loar, a 2007 W&L graduate and currently a Ph.D. candidate in classics at Stanford University, "mark Rebecca Benefiel as one of the finest and most influential professors I have studied under." Added Alexandra Brown, Jessie Ball DuPont Professor of Religion at W&L, "Anyone who knows her will attest: Rebecca has enormous energy, both intellectual and physical, and a hugely generous nature."
Benefiel describes her teaching philosophy as being "grounded in expecting excellence of my students, while making clear to them that this is an absolutely reasonable expectation. I try to instill a team dynamic in my classes, so that everyone feels that we are all working together."
Domnica Radulescu joined Washington and Lee's faculty in 1992 and was promoted to full professor of French and Italian in 2003. A political refugee who fled her native Romania for the United States in 1983, she received her B.A. in English from Loyola University of Chicago, and her M.A. in comparative literature and Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from the University of Chicago.
In addition to teaching courses in French language and literature, and in Italian Renaissance literature, Radulescu is the co-founding chair of W&L's Women's and Gender Studies Program and is the founding organizer and director of the National Symposium of Theater in Academe. Her W&L career has been characterized by her creation of new programs and organizational projects as well as innovative and creative pedagogies that combine performance and interactive techniques in the classroom.
Radulescu's scholarship is wide ranging, including such topics as French and Italian theater, the representation of Eastern European women in Western literature and culture, narratives of exile, and the representation of "Gypsy" or Roma women in commedia dell'arte performance. She has written, edited or co-edited nine scholarly books and collections of essays and more than 20 articles in scholarly journals and edited collections. She is the author of two acclaimed novels, Train to Trieste (2008), which has been translated into nine different languages and won the 2009 Library of Virginia Fiction Award, and Black Sea Twilight (2010). Both novels tell stories of empowered female protagonists and their journeys of self-discovery and exile.
"Professor Radulescu represents what is most hopeful and progressive in both art and education," wrote Deborah Margolin, associate professor in theater studies at Yale University, in support of the nomination. Les Essif, professor and chair of French studies at the University of Tennessee, called her "an extraordinary human being and a generous, self-sacrificing professional and colleague. She has broad and deep experience with a variety of world cultures and a variety of institutional structures and populations. Few academics have similarly impressive credentials, none could match her unique profile."
Radulescu's W&L colleagues and her students were equally effusive. "The most remarkable thing about [Radulescu's] teaching is the scope of her interest," wrote 2010 W&L graduate Christopher Farrell. "She [was] there to teach and to cultivate a younger generation to find beauty in art, language, and literature." And 2010 W&L graduate Stephanie Dultz noted: "Professor Radulescu breathes life into all of her courses, and I feel privileged to have taken as many as I did. Her passion for theater has led to some of my favorite academic moments. She has inspired me to continue in my French education by pursuing a Ph.D, [and] has encouraged me to continue traveling and exploring other cultures." Calling Radulescu "the most dynamic and creative faculty member in Romance languages," Matthew Bailey, head of the W&L Department of Romance Languages, added that her courses are invariably oversubscribed because "she inspires her students to want to learn."
Radulescu calls herself "a passionate believer in the liberal arts principles of multicultural learning, and I live and profess them in my everyday interactions with my students and the profession at large. The array of courses I have created are meant to open a type of learning in which the teacher is a mentor who both leads the way toward enlightenment and critical thinking and inspires to social change and activism in the world."
SCHEV established the Outstanding Faculty Awards in 1986 to recognize excellence in teaching, research and service among the faculties of Virginia's public and private colleges and universities. A special committee of education, business and civic leaders and SCHEV choose the recipients based upon nominees' contributions to their students, academic disciplines, institutions and communities.
Benefiel and Radulescu will be the 15th and 16th Washington and Lee professors to have won the honor.
Previous Washington and Lee winners:
Ellen Mayock (Spanish) 2010
Mark Carey (History) 2009
Erich Uffelman (Chemistry) 2009
Suzanne Keen (English) 2008
William F. Connelly Jr. (Politics) 2007
Harlan Beckley (Religion) 2002
Pamela Simpson (Art History) 1995
Margaret Brouwer (Music) 1994
Andrew McThenia (Law) 1994
Edgar Spencer (Geology) 1990
Sidney Coulling (English) 1989
Brian Murchison (Law) 1988
Philip Cline (Economics) 1987
Leonard Jarrard (Psychology) 1987