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Charles E. Wilson Jr., University Professor of English and currently department chair, received a Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, becoming Old Dominion University's 15th winner of the prestigious state honor.

The annual awards program, now co-sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and TIAA-CREF, announced 11 statewide winners for 2004 at a ceremony held Jan. 21 in Richmond. Each winner receives a cash award of $4,000.

Old Dominion's two previous winners, Sheri Reynolds and Janet Peery, also teach English.

Wilson, who has taught at ODU for 12 years, is a favorite professor among English majors and non-English majors alike. His areas of specialization include American literature to 1900, Southern literature and African-American literature.

"Term after term, his sections fill; term after term, he sends his students away satisfied that they had a rich learning experience," said Jeffrey H. Richards, professor of English and former department chair. "He serves as a model instructor for the many teaching majors in his classes and a model of devotion to professionalism, adherence to standards and passion for knowledge."

Many former students wrote in support of Wilson's nomination. Among their comments were:

"His classes always provided a forum for students to speak freely without the threat of being silenced if their views opposed others."

"He worked with me to improve my writing skills, and he inspired me to work harder than I had ever before worked. He trained me to write and think critically. His impact has been immeasurable."

"You have quite simply inspired me, Sir, and I am grateful beyond words."

Indeed, Wilson's vast knowledge of his subject matter, his unbridled passion for teaching and his interest in students are what keeps them coming back for more of his classes.

One of Wilson's favorite letters is one he received via e-mail not long ago from an older student.

"She wrote to thank me for my inspiration and guidance and to share with me how on one particular occasion I truly redirected her scholastic path," Wilson said. "On the given day, when she was walking to my class, she was haunted by all the reasons that she should drop out of school and return home in another state. But walking from my class she considered only all of the reasons that she should remain in school and complete her undergraduate education.

"She insisted that my passion, my concern and my dedication to the intellectual process completely changed her thinking. Now that she will soon earn her degree, she is preparing to enroll in graduate school. These are the moments that professors cherish, and they remind us of why we work so hard to inspire and enlighten."

Wilson was one of nine faculty nominated by ODU for the award and one of 86 nominated altogether by Virginia's public and private colleges and universities.

He received the university's highest honor for teaching, the A. Rufus Tonelson Award, in 2000. His latest publication, a book titled "Walter Mosley: A Critical Companion" (Westport: Greenwood Press), was released in 2003.

This article was posted on: January 20, 2004

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