The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors to Sylvia Hutchinson, professor emerita of higher education, and Brahm P. Verma, professor emeritus of engineering, during Founders Day activities on Jan. 28.
The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.
“I am pleased that Sylvia Hutchinson and Brahm P. Verma will be honored for their decades of service to this university and to the state of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Both helped serve the university community in many ways. Generations of students have benefited from their exemplary leadership and support.”
A retired professor of reading education, Hutchinson first arrived on the UGA campus as an undergraduate student in 1960. Over the next 15 years she earned her bachelor’s and master’s, both in elementary education, and a Ph.D. in reading education (now known as the department of language and literacy education) from UGA.
After teaching at Southwest Texas State University for two years, Hutchinson returned to UGA as an assistant professor in 1978, where she remained until her retirement in 2002. During her tenure, she served as an associate dean of education and coordinator for a number of UGA faculty support and development programs, including postdoctoral teaching and peer consulting. She was also a professor of higher education and a member of the Institute of Higher Education faculty.
After retirement, she continued to serve UGA. She worked with the Emeriti Scholars who mentored students in The Coca-Cola Foundation’s First Generation Scholarship program on campus. The mentors volunteered their time to help the first-generation students navigate the university system. In addition, she served on boards of a variety of organizations, including UGA’s Graduate Development program, the Education and Law Consortium, the Athens Tutorial Program and Georgia Voyager magazine. She served as coordinator of the peer consultation team in the Center for Teaching and Learning and as a faculty liaison to the Student Veterans Resource Center. When asked, she still volunteers to teach Honors, College of Education, graduate and First-Year Odyssey classes.
Hutchinson’s community service and campus activities have included serving as board member and/or chair for the Athens Kiwanis Club, Jeanette Rankin Society, Lanier Gardens, the Ten-O Club for UGA women’s gymnastics, UGA Women’s Studies Board of Advisors and the Young Harris College Alumni Foundation. She continues to serve on the College of Education and Graduate School advancement boards.
Brahm P. Verma
Verma was instrumental in founding UGA’s Faculty of Engineering and ultimately UGA’s College of Engineering.
Two decades ago, he and others began advocating for a full-fledged comprehensive engineering program at UGA. He helped in the formation of 15 academic degree programs.
Verma also led in the formulation of the Institute of Biological Engineering, a professional society for Advancing Biology-Inspired Engineering, and served as the Founding President.
Verma received his bachelor’s in agricultural engineering from the University of Allahabad in India, his master’s in agricultural engineering from the University of Kentucky and his doctorate in agricultural engineering from Auburn University in 1968.
When he arrived at UGA in 1970 as an assistant professor, he was the first person of Indian origin appointed to a tenure-track faculty position in an agricultural engineering department at a U.S. university. He was named an associate professor in 1975 and a professor in 1982. Since 2007, he has served as a professor and associate director emeritus.
He was a full member of the UGA Graduate Faculty, a Faculty Fellow in the Artificial Intelligence Center, associate director of the Faculty of Engineering and coordinator of engineering research. His research focuses on the theory of models and principles of similitude; engineering design and decision methodology; and the application of computational intelligence for modeling agricultural and biological systems. He will be remembered for his many contributions related to the creation of the College of Engineering at UGA.