Samford University presented several of its top awards to faculty during opening convocation for spring term Jan. 11. Rhonda Parker, a professor in the Department of Communication and Media, received the University’s prestigious George Macon Award, which memorializes 1884 Samford graduate George Macon, who later joined the faculty to teach chemistry, natural history, applied mathematics and engineering. The award is given to a faculty member who, through outstanding performance as a teacher, counselor and friend, demonstrates the ability to inspire students to greatness.
Parker arrived at Samford in 2002 and chaired the newly created Department of Communication Studies for 14 years. She designed the curriculum to match her philosophy of teaching, which places a strong emphasis on Communication as an applied discipline. The success of her approach appears most clearly in the lives of the generation of Communication Studies majors she has taught over the past two decades.
Several quotes from her letters of nomination demonstrate the scope of her influence.
- Ashley Martin Owen (’06), marketing director for Libbey, Inc., explained: “Rhonda made me want to be better every day. To a small-town Alabama girl, she was a shining example of what it meant to be a strong, independent woman that chased her dreams. I have chased my dreams and pushed myself to be smarter every day, built on the foundation that she helped me establish.”
- Erin Basinger (’08), a professor at UNC-Charlotte recalled: “She was my role model, my friend, and my confidant. When I doubted myself, she pushed me further than I could have ever imagined. She guided me but never held my hand too tight. She believed in me which taught me to believe in myself.”
- Abby Carroll (’17), an account executive at Healthstream, wrote: “Dr. Parker is one of the professors who teaches her students to fly; she teaches us what we need to know and then pushes us out of our nest. She encourages her students to take their classroom knowledge to the next level and apply it to other classes as well as life.”
- And Megan Garcia (’18), an account executive at Warren Douglas advertising, emphasized: “Being a professor is her job, but being a mentor for all her students, that’s her life.”
The Macon Award is a testament to Parker’s career as an inspiring scholar, teacher, and mentor. She motivates students to set high standards and strive for greatness, not only when they’re at Samford, but as they navigate life’s opportunities and challenges. Clearly, it’s an uplifting lesson that’s left a lasting impression on many.