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Hunter Hamilton Love of Teaching Award 2011

05/07/11 -  

There is much undiscovered potential within each of us, which, if inspired by the right teacher, can change the world. Most of us are privileged to have had a professor whose care and enthusiasm molded and often changed our lives. These teachers stand out and continue their inspiration long after our college days.

The late Dr. Roger McGrath was a wonderful example of that model. Recognizing his dedication and enthusiasm for teaching, he was honored with the 2011 Hunter Hamilton Love of Teaching Award during Commencement 2011.  The Hunter Hamilton is the highest faculty award given by Queens University of Charlotte and is accompanied by a $15,000 cash gift.

McGrath was a long-time McColl School and Core professor, and passed away in December 2010.

It's hard to say whether his bottom-line attitude came from being a business professor, a decorated Vietnam veteran in Special Forces, or his own God-given personality. But whatever the source, he was a man who spoke his mind, prodding faculty and administrators to consider the thing that mattered most: the students. His death was a blow to the Queens community, and students lost one of their strongest advocates in his passing.

"Roger made students laugh, he made them work, he made them think," wrote fellow McColl professor Catherine Eason. She nominated McGrath for the award, describing him as a mentor to faculty as well as to students. "He was always pulling for the underdog student, often saying that school might be their only hope in changing the course of their lives. I'd like to think that he changed many."

McGrath's approach was unconventional and original. He pressed students to grapple with life lessons, not just textbooks.

Business major Sven Meydell '10 relished McGrath's frequent displays of wit. In the first of three courses he took under McGrath, he learned that it was important to start saving money.

"I remember his lesson to us about the 'go to hell fund,' which quite simply meant, 'save for a rainy day,' so that one day, if you were to disagree with your treatment at a company -or over other issues that questioned your integrity and happiness- you could very politely quote those three lovely words and move on to better things for yourself," he wrote.

McGrath's independence was anchored in respect for others, and he spent more than 30 years in the Army. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He retired as a full colonel. He later earned a doctorate in business administration at Florida State University. Yet he did not rest on his honors, and in the academic world he served where he was most effective, including outside the McColl School. Dr. Dorothy McGavran, in nominating McGrath for the Hunter-Hamilton award, noted that he spent five years teaching Core 412 Applying Ethics, an unusual long-term commitment to the Core Program for a business professor.

John Repede's office was next door to McGrath's, and the two were close friends during the 10 years they both worked at Queens. In Repede's nomination he noted that never, in his 25 years in higher education, had he known a stronger champion for students. "It's hard for me to recall ever having a conversation with Roger on any topic in which he did not questions how students' welfare would be affected," Repede wrote.

The two loved to debate and banter, and their lively arguments would occasionally draw faculty from nearby offices. Julie Funderburk, an instructor of English, had an office across from McGrath's and remembers the two men holding "epic debates."

"Roger delighted in the fire of logic and discourse," she wrote in her nomination. "He was a man of intellect and humor whose lightheartedness was matched by a deep seriousness, whose integrity was expressed through his commitment to his profession."

McGrath pushed his students and inspired his colleagues. The Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award is a tribute to his impact on both, and especially, on the culture of Queens.
The amount of the award each year is $15,000, half of which goes to the faculty member and half to an academic department or program selected by the recipient.

This annual award is made possible by a gift from the late Dr. James Pressly Hamilton and Grey Hunter Hamilton '62 in honor of their parents, Buford Lindsay Hamilton and Frances Pressly Hamilton, and Richard Moore Hunter and Isabel Reid Hunter. 

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