When asked about Kirkwood, Clifton’s first response centered, not on Kirkwood’s skills as a math professor, but on his expertise as a person. “You can tell that he really cares about his students’ success and that their lives are going well for them,” the math and physics major from Madison Heights, Va., said.
Clifton also credited Kirkwood’s “patient tutoring” for giving her a better understanding of math concepts, and said as a math tutor last year she heard nothing but “praise and wonder at how much he cares.”
In mid-May, Kirkwood was named the third recipient of the Cameron Fellowship at Sweet Briar College. President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, in consultation with the personnel committee and Jonathan Green, dean of the College, chose to honor Kirkwood for his valuable service to Sweet Briar.
In a letter of recommendation, personnel committee chair and biology professor Robin Davies called Kirkwood “one of the faculty’s unsung heroes.” She praised him, not only for his devotion to students and teaching but for his 25-year commitment to the College and its mission.
“He is always thinking about the big picture — the overall quality of the College, the importance of educating young women, the value of a liberal arts education, what differentiates a liberal arts institution from other institutions in terms of curriculum, the faculty, the administration, and the goals the College sets for itself,” she wrote.
In addition to authoring or co-authoring several textbooks, Kirkwood has worked with Davies and math professor Raina Robeva to develop a biomathematics program at Sweet Briar.
Their work, conducted under a grant from the National Science Foundation, includes the 2007 textbook “An Invitation to Biomathematics.” The book and its accompanying lab manual were co-written with several former or current University of Virginia faculty members.
In a letter to the personnel committee and dean of the College, Kirkwood wrote, “The field of biomathematics has recently come into prominence nationally, and our early entry into the area is a selling point for the College.”
First given in 2004, the biennial award is made possible by Flora Cameron Crichton ’46 of San Antonio, Texas, and includes an annual stipend of $2,500 until the recipient retires from Sweet Briar.
Past recipients include education professor Jim Alouf (2006) and German professor Ron Horwege (2004).
Eligibility extends to full professors in rank for at least seven years who are involved in ongoing work of value to Sweet Briar, including research, innovative teaching or service, and other valuable endeavors.
To become a Cameron candidate, eligible professors must submit their intent to the personnel committee with a cover letter explaining their work and its value to the College. Faculty members may also nominate fellow professors, as was the case in Kirkwood’s recommendation for the award.
The committee chooses four finalists and requests three letters of support from other faculty and further support documentation from nominees. The selected names go to the president, who consults with the College dean on the final nomination.
– By Suzanne Ramsey, SBC staff writer