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Distinguished Faculty Members Retire From Knox College

At the end of the 2023-24 school year, distinguished faculty members retired from Knox College: Nancy Eberhardt, Szold Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology; Andrew Mehl, George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry; Dennis Schneider, professor of mathematics; and James Thrall, Knight Distinguished Professor for the Study of Religion and culture.

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to our long-serving faculty upon their retirement, and the collective contributions of this year’s retiring faculty, both at Knox and within their fields, makes their departure even more bittersweet,” said Michael Schneider, provost and dean of the College. “They have taught foundational courses in the curriculum, introduced new methods and areas of teaching at Knox, mentored advanced students, and served their colleagues in governance and administrative positions. I know I speak on behalf of the entire faculty when I say that they will be dearly missed.”

Nancy Eberhardt

Szold Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Nancy Eberhardt

Nancy Eberhardt’s storied career at Knox College spans four decades, beginning in 1984 and marked by a profound dedication to understanding the intricate ways in which culture and social organization shape our personal experiences and identities. Her scholarly pursuits have delved into the contingent relationships between societal structures, cultural norms, and individual perceptions and themes she eloquently explored in her acclaimed book, Imagining the Course of Life.

Eberhardt earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois in 1984, where she also completed her master of arts degree in 1979. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from the University of Iowa in 1975. Her teaching repertoire at Knox has been extensive, encompassing cultural anthropology, socio-economic change, psychological anthropology, Southeast Asia, gender, religion, and ethnographic research methods.

Eberhardt's primary research site has been Thailand, and her long-term fieldwork has cultivated strong research interests in Buddhism, indigenous psychologies, rural economic change, education, cross-border migration, and urban multi-ethnic identities. Her commitment to introducing students to ethnographic fieldwork’s rigors and joys is evident through the incorporation of her research examples into her courses.

"Nancy has been a valued mentor for many in the faculty, many of whom she may not be aware of how much she helped mentor them just by her example. I have watched her help the College navigate difficult times, always doing her part gracefully,” Watson Bartlett Professor of Biology and Conservation, Chair of Mathematics, and Director of Green Oaks Biological Field Station Stuart Allison said. 

Eberhardt's professional journey is adorned with numerous accolades and grants, including the College Faculty Career Enhancement Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2014, the Caterpillar Foundation Faculty Achievement Award in 2010, and the Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for distinguished teaching in 1995. Her scholarly contributions are significant, with publications in esteemed journals such as Contemporary Buddhism and the Journal of Anthropological Theory, alongside her book Imagining the Course of Life. She has served multiple terms as chair of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and has been an integral member of the Peace Corps Preparatory Committee since 2007. 

Andrew Mehl

George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry Andrew Mehl

Andrew Mehl’s career at Knox College, beginning in 1993, is marked by his deep fascination with chemistry. His research has significantly advanced the understanding of protein stability, providing insights into both common and distinct aspects of protein folding.

Mehl earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Maryland in 1990, following a magna cum laude bachelor of arts degree in chemistry and biology from McDaniel College. His teaching interests are diverse, encompassing general chemistry, biochemistry, proteins and enzymes, methods in biochemistry, and biological spectroscopy. He has been dedicated to sharing his expertise and passion for science with generations of Knox students.

Mehl's career is distinguished by numerous accolades and grants. He received the Knox Faculty Research/Creative Work Grant in 2016-2017, and, in collaboration with colleagues, he secured a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Grant in 2014 for acquiring a multifunctional imager for research and undergraduate training. Notably, he received another NSF Major Research Instrumentation Grant in 2009 for a stopped-flow apparatus to investigate protein folding pathways and enhance student research opportunities. His research on GrpE was further supported by a National Institutes of Health AREA grant in 2002.

Mehl contributed many notable publications including studies on myoglobin stability and the structural characteristics of GrpE. He has also participated actively in scientific conferences, presenting his research at prestigious gatherings such as the Envisioning the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education conference in Washington, D.C., and the Symposium of the Protein Society.

“The rigorous, yet personal academic environment you provided taught me the importance of not just scientific knowledge acquisition, but also the ability to communicate effectively and challenge ideas respectfully. All of these learnings set the foundation for my journey through graduate school, post-doctoral research, and professional scientific career,” a former student of Mehl shared.

Mehl served as chair of the Department of Chemistry, coordinator of the Science Area Council, and chair of the Steering Committee for the Science Facility Renovation Initiative. His professional affiliations include membership in The Protein Society, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, and Phi Beta Kappa.

James Thrall

Knight Distinguished Professor for the Study of Religion and Culture James Thrall

James Thrall’s career at Knox College began in 2010, during which he shared his profound interest in religion and its intersections with culture, media, and literature. 

Thrall received his  Ph.D. in religion and culture from Duke University in 2005, a master of arts in religion degree in theology from Yale University Divinity School in 1986, and a bachelor of arts degree in English from Colby College in 1978. His teaching interests span a wide range of topics, including religion and science fiction, religion and film, religion and media, religion and popular culture, theories of religion, and world religions. 

Throughout his career, Thrall received several honors and grants, including the Council of Independent Colleges and the Interfaith Youth Core Workshop on Interfaith Education in 2014, and the Mellon Faculty Grant for Project Advancement at Knox College during the 2011-2012 academic year. 

Thrall’s extensive list of publications reflects his diverse research interests. Notable works include Mystic Moderns: Agency and Enchantment in Evelyn Underhill, May Sinclair, and Mary Webb (2020), and articles such as “Building on the Vision: Mormon ‘Humanism’ in Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)” (2021) and “Shifting Histories, Blurred Borders, and Mediated Sacred Texts in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle” (2018).

At Knox College, Thrall has served in various leadership roles, including chair of the religious studies program since 2012, co-chair of the peace and justice studies program from 2018-2023, and chair of the Faculty Personnel Committee from 2019-2020. His contributions have extended to the Curriculum Committee Policy Subcommittee, the Honor Board, and the Committee on Budget and Financial Priorities.

Since I started at Knox, Jim has been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my teaching and research. His easygoing attitude belies a wry sense of humor and he never seemed phased by the stress of chairing multiple programs while bringing on and mentoring new faculty. I’ll miss Jim’s willingness and encouragement to try new things, which was always supported by his deep institutional knowledge,” Religious Studies Lecturer Scott Harris shared.

Rootabaga 2024

Professor of Mathematics Dennis Schneider

Before his official retirement, Professor of Mathematics Dennis M. Schneider, whose impressive career spanned more than 50 years at Knox College, passed away on June 6, 2024. 

During the weekend of June 1, 2024, more than 30 alumni, colleagues, and friends gathered at a mini-conference on the Knox campus to celebrate Schneider’s distinguished career and lasting influence on his students. The caliber of its speakers and the respect and love shown for his career was a testament to his contributions to his field and the Knox community.

Read the full In Memoriam dedicated to Schneider by clicking here. 

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Printed on Monday, July 22, 2024