The University of Georgia bestowed one of its highest honors on Ronald D. Simpson and Rebecca Hanner White in an award ceremony on Jan. 25.
The President’s Medal recognizes individuals, not currently employed at the university, who have made extraordinary contributions to the UGA community by supporting students and academic programs, advancing research or engaging in public service to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia. The honor is awarded annually during the university’s Founders Day celebration.
“This year’s honorees, Dr. Ronald Simpson and Dean Rebecca Hanner White, have been devoted members of the UGA community for decades and have played key roles in establishing some of our most impactful academic programs,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “It has been my great privilege to work with both of them over the course of my career.”
Ronald D. Simpson played a central role in establishing teaching excellence as an integral part of the University of Georgia’s institutional culture. He is a professor emeritus of higher education and science education and director emeritus of UGA’s Office of Instructional Development.
After serving for 15 years as the inaugural director of the Office of Instructional Development and more than 20 years as a faculty member, Simpson retired from UGA in 2001. He has continued to support the university’s instructional initiatives as a charter member of the Emeriti Scholars program and a mentor to faculty and administrators.
Simpson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee before coming to the University of Georgia for his doctorate in science education. After graduating in 1970, Simpson joined the faculty of the Mary Frances Early College of Education as an assistant professor. He briefly moved to North Carolina State University before returning to UGA to direct the newly created Office of Instructional Development.
As the director of the Office of Instructional Development from 1981 to 1996, Simpson started or supported more than 30 programs and activities that dramatically improved the quality of instruction in UGA classrooms and laboratories. Many of these programs, such as the UGA Teaching Academy, are still active today. He also established teaching awards for faculty and graduate students, including the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship, UGA’s highest teaching honor.
Simpson’s programs in the Office of Instructional Development, which later became the Office of Instructional Support and Development in 1997 and the Center for Teaching and Learning in 2005, have been recognized regionally and nationally as models for effective faculty and instructional development.
Simpson continued to engage in teaching, research and service in the department of science education at UGA concurrent with directing the Office of Instructional Development. In 1996, he became a full-time faculty member in the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education and served for two years as acting director of the institute. Simpson also coordinated the statewide Governor’s Teaching Fellows program from 1995 to 2000.
Simpson published numerous articles and professional publications throughout his career, in addition to multiple books focused on issues in higher education. He served on the board of the National Science Teachers Association and on the editorial board of multiple science and higher education journals.
In 2001, Simpson received the Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award, the highest teaching award given by the University System of Georgia, for his superlative teaching record and commitment to helping students achieve academic success. He also is a past recipient of UGA’s Creative Research Medal and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Rebecca Hanner White
Rebecca Hanner White is regarded as one of the most effective deans and professors in the history of the University of Georgia’s School of Law. She served as dean from 2003 to 2015 and has continued to support the law school and its goals since her retirement in 2016 as dean and J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law emeritus.
White graduated from the University of Kentucky’s J. David Rosenberg College of Law in 1981 as valedictorian of her class. She practiced labor and employment law for seven years in Cincinnati, Ohio, before joining the School of Law at the University of Georgia as an assistant professor in 1989.
White continued to rise through the academic ranks at UGA over the years, becoming a full professor in 1998. She served as the associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs for the university from October 2003 to June 2004 before becoming the law school’s dean and J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in July 2004.
Among her many accomplishments as dean, White recruited and supported a highly talented community of faculty and staff members who were dedicated to student success, enhanced the curriculum offerings and experiential learning opportunities for law students, oversaw major upgrades to the law school’s facilities and expanded private donor support.
White was a pioneer at UGA as well as in her field. In addition to being the first female dean of the School of Law, she was the first female faculty member from the law school to be named a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor and the first female faculty member to win the law school’s Faculty Book Award for Excellence in Teaching, which she went on to win six times, and the John C. O’Byrne Memorial Award for furthering faculty-student relations. She also was the first female faculty member to be selected as an honorary marshal by the law school’s graduating class.
In April 2015, White received the UGA Alumni Association’s Faculty Service Award, marking the first time the award was presented to a law school faculty member in 35 years. She also received the UGA Law School Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Scroll Award in 2015 and the Professional Achievement Award from the University of Kentucky’s Rosenberg College of Law in 2012.
White specializes in labor law, employment discrimination, employment law and labor arbitration, and her scholarship has been cited by federal and state courts across the United States. Her work has been published in numerous articles and books. She continues to serve the law community as co-chair of the Strategic Review Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
The President’s Medal ceremony is part of Founders Week, when UGA observes the date the university was established, Jan. 27. On this day in 1785, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a charter establishing the University of Georgia as the first institution of public higher education in America.