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Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn Named 2015 Tennessee Professor of the Year

Ronnie Littlejohn

Belmont professors selected six times since 2000 for statewide honor

Belmont’s Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn, professor of philosophy and director of the University’s Asian Studies program, was named today as the 2015 Tennessee Professor of the Year, an award selection determined by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Dr. Littlejohn, who is currently in Washington, D.C. for special ceremonies to receive his award, was selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States. Belmont will be holding its own celebration to honor Dr. Littlejohn on Dec. 1 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Massey Board Room on the fourth floor of the Belmont’s Massey Business Center.

Belmont University Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said, “Belmont strives to be a leader among teaching universities, and Ronnie’s achievements and passion for his work exemplify that commitment. An innovator in the classroom, a dedicated mentor to students and an inspiration to his colleagues, his selection as Tennessee Professor of the Year places him on a platform to be nationally recognized for the excellence we’ve been privileged to see on this campus for 30-plus years.”

The author of six books, Littlejohn received his B.A., master’s and Ph.D. from Baylor University and has conducted post-doctoral work at several institutions including Harvard and Notre Dame. Littlejohn joined the Belmont faculty in 1984 to help begin a philosophy department and served as its chair for 20 years (1993-2013). He also designed the Belmont Honors Program (serving as its first director from 1985-88) as well as the interdisciplinary Asian Studies program, which he continues to oversee. In fact, Littlejohn was Tennessee’s co-director of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) from 2007-2011. He has also taught Asian philosophical and religious beliefs for Air Force officers of the Pacific Command (PACOM) Theater of Special Operations Forces (2011), and he has led workshops to enhance the teaching of Asia at more than a dozen universities. Littlejohn’s current work is in Comparative Philosophy, especially classical Confucianism and Daoism. He has many teaching awards to his credit, including the Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching presented by the International Conference on Teaching and Learning (2003).

Dr. Bryce Sullivan, dean of Belmont’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said, “Dr. Littlejohn is without question among the top teachers I have had the pleasure of serving with in my long academic career. His love of learning, exuberance for teaching, deep appreciation of liberal arts education and concern for the welfare of his students and colleagues are among the many reasons he is in my pantheon of teachers. He mobilizes his students and seeks to make them both passionate about the many questions that arise from our global interactions, and he also helps them explore what we do not know about the vast ways in which people flourish as humans. The word philosophy means, of course, the love of learning, and Dr. Littlejohn fits that definition perfectly as a teacher and scholar.”

An array of colleagues and former students offered recommendations on behalf of Dr. Littlejohn, and the following quotes are just a few sampled excerpts that help detail why he was selected as Tennessee’s Professor of the Year:

“Now it is one thing to say that a teacher inspired you enough to take their course, but it is another entirely to say that in the second semester of your junior year, a teacher sparked a fire for learning within you that caused you to earn a second degree come graduation day… however, his mentoring did not end the day that I left Belmont’s campus, and neither did the major impact he has had on my life. I chose to continue my education in the field that he had inspired me to pursue and am currently living in China, where I am a Master student on a full-ride Chinese Government Scholarship, a scholarship for which he wrote me a recommendation. I will be graduating in June with a Master of Law in Chinese Politics and Diplomacy, and he has already been contacting me about my future plans and how he can help.”

Tara Rochelle Clance, Master Candidate Fudan University

“Dr. Littlejohn doesn’t just teach undergraduates; he uses his class to touch and ultimately transform their lives. Again and again, I’ve encountered people who took his class twenty years ago and still remember the books they read, the discussions they had and the singular presence in the front of the room. Part of the reason for the impact Ronnie has on students is his personality and disposition: he is funny, charming, highly personable and (unusual especially among philosophers) utterly without pretension.”

Dr. Noel Boyle, associate professor of philosophy

“The story of Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn and a vocation of scholarly teaching and learning is one of continuing expansion or intellectual space and pathways for an institution and its faculty, for higher education and its global connections. But it stays rooted in the classroom, because Ronnie himself stays rooted there—knowing that these larger transformations he has helped foster are only meaningful if that student—third one, back row, slouched over—can latch onto her own questions, connect them to the questions and issues of his time and of humanity, and move from that question into her own quest for growth and understanding.”

—Dr. Marcia McDonald, professor of English

Belmont University professors represent six of the past 16 Tennessee Professors of the Year: 2000 winner the late Dr. Mike Awalt (Philosophy), 2001 winner Dr. David Julseth (Spanish), 2007 winner Dr. Pete Giordano (Psychology), 2008 winner Dr. John Gonas (Finance), 2012 winner Dr. Mike Pinter (Math) and Dr. Littlejohn this year.

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. Additional support for the program is received from Phi Beta Kappa, which sponsors an evening congressional reception, the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education and other higher education associations.

This year, a state Professor of the Year was recognized in 35 states. CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges comprised of deans and professors, education reporters and government and foundation representatives to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching then convened the third and final panel to select the winners. Dr. Littlejohn was selected from faculty members nominated by colleges and universities throughout the country.

About the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

About the Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Founded in 1974 with headquarters in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, the Council for Advancement and Support of is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas.

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