West Texas A&M University

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College of Education and Social Sciences Endowed Chairs and Professorships

College of Education and Social Sciences

Endowed Chairs and Professorships

Endowed Chairs and Professorships in the college strengthen the University’s foundation of academic excellence through expanding opportunities for exceptional faculty members by providing additional resources for teaching, meaningful scholarship, and professional development. Endowed Chairs and Professorships provide the University a valuable tool in recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty members. Funds generated from the endowment allow the University to reward scholarly excellence and encourage research while enhancing program growth and development.

For information concerning the establishment of an endowed Chair or Professorship, please contact Dr. Eddie Henderson ehenderson@wtamu.edu, 806-651-2603.

The Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education

The Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education was established in 2008 by members of the Dr. John G. O’Brien family, the Amarillo Area Foundation, and the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation to honor Dr. John G. O’Brien who instilled in his family a profound dedication to strengthening public school education in the Texas Panhandle and beyond. Dr. O’Brien is a leader in the oil and gas and ranching industries, and his meaningful philanthropic efforts have been recognized by numerous entities including receiving the Pinnacle Award from West Texas A&M in 2009.

The Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education shall be an outstanding faculty member who has a strong theoretical background in educational research.  Working in collaboration with area school district partners and the WTAMU Department of Education faculty, the Chair will identify current issues in education relating to “best teaching” practices and will conduct in-depth scholarly research concerning such issues/questions to determine research-based best practices. Utilizing research findings, the Chair will provide professional development opportunities for WTAMU Department of Education faculty as well as administrators and teachers in area public school districts.  The Chair will identify opportunities to deliver research findings on state, national, and international platforms and to publish research findings in professional journals.

Dr. Laurie Sharp, Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education

Following a national search, Dr. Laurie Sharp was selected as the Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education and joined WTAMU in 2016.  Dr. Sharp received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Florida in 2004 and her Master of Education degree from the University of Central Florida in 2005.  She earned her Doctor of Education degree from Tarleton State University in Educational Leadership. Her demonstrated teaching excellence in the public school and university classrooms has been recognized with numerous awards.  She is a prolific scholar coming to WTAMU with 25 peer-reviewed publications and numerous conference proceedings.                                                                                                             

The Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science and the Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics

The Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science and the Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics were established in 2008 with gifts from the family, friends, and colleagues of the late Ambassador Teel Bivins and the Mary E. Bivins Foundation in recognition of the significant contributions of Ambassador Bivins to Texas and to the nation in the arena of public service. Senator Bivins was a well-known and effective leader in the Texas Panhandle, in the state Senate, and internationally. Senator Bivins was elected to the Texas Senate in 1989 and appointed United States Ambassador to

Sweden in 2004. Senator Bivins chaired the Texas Senate Finance Committee, Education Committee, Nominations Committee, and Subcommittee on Agriculture. The establishment of the Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science and the Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics enables the University to identify and retain outstanding political science faculty members; to pay tribute to the Bivins family for their pioneering work in the region; to pay tribute to Ambassador Bivins for his visionary leadership; to initiate meaningful scholarly research important to the area; and to educate, prepare and inspire future leaders. Appointments to the Teel Bivins Professorships are granted for a three-year period and recognize excellence in teaching, scholarship and professional service.

Dr. Dave Rausch, Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science

In September 2009, Dr. Dave Rausch was appointed the Teel Bivins Professor of Political Science. Dr. Rausch joined WTAMU in 1998 and is an associate professor of political science. A native of Pennsylvania, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1989 and a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1992. He received a Ph.D. degree from the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center and the University of Oklahoma in 1995. He also holds certificates from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Dallas. Dr. Rausch is co-author or co-editor of five books and has published a number of scholarly works on topics in political science. He regularly appears on Amarillo media outlets, and occasionally on national media outlets, to discuss political events and issues. Dr. Rausch teaches courses in American government, Texas government, religion and politics, and the United States Congress. His current research evaluates the effects of state legislative term limits, the changes caused by implementation of cumulative voting on local legislative bodies, and campaigns and elections at the local, state, and national levels.

Dr. Anand Bertrand Commissiong, Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics

In January 2016, Dr. Anand Commissiong, Associate Professor of Political Science, was appointed the Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics.  Dr. Commissiong received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers College in 1993. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Political Science from Rutgers University and joined WTAMU in 2014.  Dr. Commissiong provides leadership to a number of university diversity and inclusion initiatives including serving as chair of the University Diversity Committee. Dr. Commissiong is an active scholar in the field of comparative politics and modern western political thought.

The Helen Piehl Professor of Education

The Helen Piehl Professor of Education was established in 2008 by Helen Piehl, a distinguished alumnus of West Texas A&M University, who through her generosity and dedication to students and learning has enhanced the quality of education throughout the Texas Panhandle and beyond. Through her outstanding example of philanthropy, commitment and leadership, including many years of dedicated service to the WTAMU Foundation Board of Directors and service as its President. Helen Piehl has influenced university students and her peers to give generously of their time and talents and to strive for excellence. In addition to serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Sales, Inc., Ms. Piehl dedicates her efforts to many charitable organizations including service as Secretary to the Texas State 4H Youth Development Foundation. She was the recipient of the WTAMU Old Main Society Pinnacle Award in 2011. Ms. Piehl established the Professorship in lasting tribute to her mother, Eula Hayes – a 1918 graduate of West Texas Normal College – and to the many members of her family who dedicated their professional lives to public school education. Appointments to the Helen Piehl Professor of Education are granted for a three-year period and recognize excellence in teaching, scholarship and professional service.

Dr. Ashley Campbell, Helen Piehl Professor of Education

In September 2012, Dr. Ashley Campbell was appointed the Helen Piehl Professor of Education. Dr. Campbell earned three degrees from Texas Tech University – a bachelor’s and a master’s in biology and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with specialization in science education . She has publications in journals such as the Journal of College Science Teaching, Science Scope, Science and Children, and The Texas Science Teacher. She has also written a book chapter in To Think and Act Like a Scientist: Undergraduate Research Experiences and their Effects published by Teachers College Press. Dr. Campbell has presented her research at international and national conferences. She has been an active member of Leadership Texas and the Texas A&M University System Math & Science Education Advisory Council. Dr. Campbell is a five-time recipient of the Texas A&M University System Teaching Excellence award, and she was recently named to the Chancellor's Academy of Teacher Educators.

The Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences

The Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences was established by Geneva Schaeffer in 2010. Mrs. Schaeffer, a distinguished alumnus of West Texas A&M University, continues to demonstrate an unfailing dedication to students and learning. Her generosity and enthusiasm have enhanced the quality of education and student life at WTAMU. Her leadership continues to influence university alumni and her peers to give generously of their time and talents. Mrs. Schaeffer demonstrated her commitment to the University community through her dedicated service to the WTAMU Foundation Board of Directors from 1994–2002 serving as its president. Her leadership and philanthropy, which have focused on education, leadership training, and youth programs, have been recognized by numerous entities including her receiving the WTAMU Old Main Society Pinnacle Award in 2005 and being named the 2006 Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2010, Mrs. Schaeffer was inducted as a Platinum Member of the Old Main Society. Appointments to the Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences are granted for a three-year period and recognize excellence in teaching, scholarship and professional service.

Dr. Conn Thomas, Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences

Dr. Constantine Thomas the Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences joined West Texas A&M University in 1993. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Northwest Missouri State University in 1969. After serving a tour of duty with the U.S. Army, he earned an M.Ed. in Counseling and Psychological Services from Georgia State University in 1975 and an M.Ed. from Columbus State University in special education in 1976. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi in 1995. Dr. Thomas co-authored three books and has published a number of scholarly works on the topic of special education. He has conducted professional development in conjunction with the Center for Research on Learning for twenty-eight years. During that time, he worked with hundreds of teachers and administrators, both in the United States and internationally. He has served as project leader on federal research projects focusing on secondary literacy. He was the recipient of the prestigious Gordon R. Alley Partnership Award from the University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning. Dr. Thomas is currently conducting research in the areas of instructional coaching, content enhancement routines and learning strategies.