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The chances were good that it would happen sooner or later. Stephen W. Tonelson, a professor of early childhood, speech-language pathology and special education, and one of the Darden College of Education's most respected faculty members, was selected as the 2001 winner of the award named for his parents.

The Sara and Rufus Tonelson Award, presented annually in May by the education college, honors outstanding teaching, research and publication work, as well as service to academic departments, the college, university and community. The honor includes a small monetary award.

Stephen Tonelson has taught at Old Dominion since 1981 and has served as graduate program director for special education. He has been principal or co-principal investigator for grants totalling more than $5 million, and was one of the first faculty to teach via TELETECHNET. He recently was named one of five faculty fellows by the Old Dominion Social Science Research Center.

Tonelson has worked with more than 20 doctoral students as a chair or member of their dissertation committee.

"I count Dr. Tonelson among a special group of colleagues who are firmly committed to renewing and enlarging their knowledge of the rapidly changing field of education and, in turn, improving the quality of preparation of those who service children with diverse learning and behavioral needs," said Robert A. Gable, eminent scholar of early childhood, speech-language pathology and special education, in a letter of support.

Among his activities outside the university, Tonelson serves as president of the Epilepsy Association of Virginia.

Both of Tonelson's parents played significant roles in the early years of the education college. Rufus Tonelson '33, one of the first students to enroll at Old Dominion when it was known as the Norfolk Division, joined the education faculty in 1966 and later served as dean of the Darden School of Education.

Sara Tonelson, who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Old Dominion in 1966 and 1969, had a 15-year career as a special education teacher for Norfolk Public Schools and supervised student teachers at the university for several years.

The College of Health Sciences also recently honored one of its own, Mable Smith, with the 2001 Gene W. Hirschfeld Faculty Excellence Award.

People expect Smith to be remarkable. In addition to her role as an associate professor of nursing, she is a practicing attorney. And, she spent the fall semester interning with President James V. Koch, all the while continuing to teach.

For this juggling act, and her ability to put students first, Smith was presented the $1,000 Hirschfeld Award.

In her nomination packet, graduate student Melinda Bullivant synthesized the comments of many students in saying, "She has a wonderful ability to engage students in the application of nursing theory. … She exhibits flexibility and willingness to learn from her students while maintaining firm and realistic expectations of the class."

Smith's peers consider her a highly regarded and well-respected member of their team. Associate professor of nursing Richardean Benjamin-Coleman collaborated with Smith on a project that required both nursing and legal expertise. "I have found her to be energetic, and a goal-directed scholar who is committed to excellence in teaching and the mission and goals of the School of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences and the university," she said.

"She appreciates the rigors of continuing education, and the value of seeking out new experiences," added Karen Karlowicz, director of the undergraduate nursing program, who specifically noted Smith's work with President Koch. "The faculty admired her assertiveness in pursing an opportunity to enhance her leadership skills, and her ability to integrate the responsibilities of this role with her other duties as faculty."

This article was posted on: July 5, 2001

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