Sheri Reynolds Wins Prestigious SCHEV Award

For the second year in a row, a novelist from Old Dominion’s English department has been selected to receive a prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Sheri Reynolds, associate professor of English, was one of 10 statewide winners for 2003. Old Dominion’s winner last year was Janet Peery. Since the program’s inception in 1987, 14 ODU faculty have received the coveted award.

Reynolds and the other 2003 honorees were recognized in January at the State Capitol Building. Each received a check for $2,200 and a plaque. In all, 76 faculty members from 31 colleges and universities statewide were nominated for this year’s awards.

Reynolds was further recognized as the “Rising Star” among this year’s winners. According to Alan F. Edwards Jr., associate for academic affairs with SCHEV, “This designation indicates that, while she is still in the early stages of her career, she has already made outstanding contributions to her students, her institution, her community and her field.”

A favorite among creative writing students for her energetic and inspirational teaching style, Reynolds has also made a name for herself in the literary world. She appeared on “Oprah” in 1997 when her second novel, “The Rapture of Canaan,” became the sixth book chosen for the show’s monthly book club.

The novel, which explores the spiritual struggles of a 14-year-old girl as she looks for answers about sin and faith within her Southern religious community, held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List for several weeks. The San Francisco Chronicle has called Reynolds the “newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” She is also the author of “Bitterroot Landing” (1995) and “A Gracious Plenty” (1997).

While she may be well-known in literary circles, it is inside the classroom where students benefit most from Reynolds’ talent.

“Sheri Reynolds is a warm, caring individual and communicates this to her students,” said President Roseann Runte. “She is a brilliant and talented writer who brings her creativity to the classroom.”

Old Dominion’s Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature, Reynolds encourages her students even as she critiques their writing. According to Reynolds, however, it’s not only the students who benefit from the classroom give-and-take.

“Teaching is the truest kind of adventure for me,” she said. “No matter what class I teach, I can always count on my students to challenge me, to make me think in a whole new way. My students have opened my mind and my heart, so every class is its own kind of award.”

Reynolds, who joined Old Dominion in 1997, was one of eight university faculty nominated for the SCHEV Award. “There are so many incredible, dedicated teachers in this state and in this university, so I’m just amazed and pleased to be recognized by SCHEV. I didn’t expect it, but I’m thrilled,” she said.