MACON – Mercer University will present Dr. Charles H. Roberts, associate professor of mathematics in Penfield College and a Mercer alumnus, with the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award at the University's Macon commencement on May 16.
Dr. Roberts, a native of Macon and valedictorian of his class at Peter G. Appling High School, was a student of one of the two professors for whom the award is named and a protégé of the other.
"I am a product of the local community, St. Peter Claver school and the public school system, and my experiences in this community and its schools greatly prepared me for academic life at Mercer, and eventually a productive career in education," said Dr. Roberts.
"Among the first 10 to 12 black students at Mercer, most of us – including Benny Stephens, the first African-American to enter Mercer, and Betty Walker, its first African-American female graduate, who, like me, were valedictorians at Appling – were educated right here in Bibb County. Furthermore, among the first seven or eight entering classes that enrolled black students, it is likely that the great majority of those black students attended all-black schools for all or the greater part of their pre-college education."
The Hendricks Award recognizes a full-time teacher at the University who best exemplifies the qualities that distinguished Joe and Jean Hendricks as teachers and mentors to generations of Mercer students. These include challenging and inspiring teaching in and out of the classroom, active engagement of students in the process of learning, discovery and leadership, as well as caring mentoring to motivate students and junior faculty to achieve their highest aspirations.
Under the guidance of Joe Hendricks, Dr. Roberts served as a mentor to Mercer's first class of Upward Bound students, many of whom became successful first-generation college students.
"As a result of his untiring effort, determination and vision, Joe Hendricks, along with others, brought the Upward Bound program to campus. Many prominent citizens of this community participated in that program over the years, and many of them are African-American trailblazers in the community whose contributions extend back over the decades since their participation," said Dr. Roberts, who worked in the program for five of its first six years of existence as a tutor, counselor and mathematics instructor. "My resulting experiences provided the foundation for virtually all of my future professional work."
Dr. Roberts also took a psychology course taught by Jean Hendricks, which he considers "life-changing," because it "sensitized him to the importance of placing the emphasis on the individual and those things that each individual brings to a learning situation."
After graduating from Mercer with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics in 1969, Dr. Roberts went on to earn both his Master of Science in mathematics and Ph.D. in higher education/mathematics education from Michigan State University.
Dr. Roberts helped to establish what is now known as the Charles Drew Science Scholars Program at Michigan State. The program offers academic and social support for high achieving students pursuing science and math degrees. He served as mathematics program director for 25 years, and was recognized for his efforts with the program's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Having spent nearly 50 years as an educator, Dr. Roberts has also taught at the University of Georgia, as well as several high schools, including Central, Northeast and Peach County in Middle Georgia. He also spent three years from 1998-2000 as an elected member of the Lansing, Michigan, Board of Education. Prior to that, he established mathematics after-school programs at a high school and middle school in Lansing, which involved college students from Michigan State engaged in a form of service-learning.
Dr. Roberts' professional and research interests include mathematics education, K-12 educational reform, college-level educational enhancement projects and research, professional teacher development, pre-service teacher education, and curriculum/instructional development and enrichment.
He currently serves as a mathematics instructor in Mercer's Penfield College, which provides educational opportunities to non-traditional adult students. He has also served as a student development coordinator and directs a peer tutoring program in the University's Regional Academic Centers, located around the state.
"Since 2001, I have witnessed Penfield College evolve to the point of not only being able to provide high-quality, on-campus educational experiences for adults in this community and beyond, but also to realize its potential to contribute to the larger community in various other ways, as well," said Dr. Roberts. "For example, by following up with our graduates and providing a forum for them to continue to grow academically and professionally, as well as develop their capacity to further impact their communities, this college could make a further contribution to the local communities where the regional centers are located."
The Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award, which carries a $5,000 stipend, is named for two of Mercer's greatest teachers, who are legendary at the University for their dedication to students and for their ability to engage students in transformative learning and discovery.
Dr. Jean Hendricks, a 1942 graduate of Tift College, earned her Ph.D. from Florida State University, served as chair of the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts, and was the beloved dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta.
Dr. Joseph Hendricks, a 1955 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, earned his Ph.D. from Emory University and taught for 32 years in the First-Year Seminar program, which he and his wife were instrumental in creating. He also founded the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and taught for years in the Department of Christianity in the College of Liberal Arts.
About Penfield College of Mercer University
Penfield College of Mercer University, established as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2003, is committed to serving non-traditional learners and currently enrolls more than 1,300 students. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to working adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Educational programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary programs that integrate theory and practice. The College offers general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer. Another initiative called the Bridge program transitions students enrolled in Mercer's English Language Institute and other international students to undergraduate programs throughout the University. Areas of study include organizational leadership, counseling, school counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, public safety leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology and communication. Programs are offered on Mercer's campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County, Newnan and Eastman, and online. To learn more, visit penfield.mercer.edu.