Each spring at Austin College’s Honors Convocation, President Steven O’Day presents the Homer P. Rainey award to a faculty or staff member in recognition of distinguished achievement or exemplary service to the College. The award, established by the Board of Trustees, memorializes Homer P. Rainey, a 1919 graduate of Austin College who had a prominent career in higher education.
During his career, Rainey taught at Austin College, the University of Oregon, and the University of Colorado. From 1928 until 1952, he served as President at Franklin College in Indiana, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, and Stevens College in Missouri.
In 1932, Dr. Rainey received an Honorary Doctorate at Austin College and in 1964 received the College’s Founders Medal. He was named to the Austin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 1966 and was named an Austin College Distinguished Alumnus in 1973. The annual award in his name honors Dr. Rainey’s distinguished legacy. Nominations are submitted each year by members of the campus community.
This year, President O’Day announced two recipients. “It is a great privilege for me to present the Homer P. Rainey Award to two individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to Austin College during this past, unprecedented, year,” he said, congratulating Dr. Saritha Bangara, co-director of the College’s Public Health Program, and Garrett Hubbard, director of Information Technology.
“Since the very beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, Dr. Bangara has enthusiastically taken on the roles of public health expert, celebrated video and media spokesperson, campus-wide safety advocate, and trusted community member,” O’Day said. “Ever the professional, she wears the mantle of campus leader in evaluating health safety protocols and remains on-call to respond to crises or community members in distress. With a mindset of forward-thinking and student engagement, she established the Public Health Ambassadors to engage students in the experiences of public health professionals in real time. All of this is in addition to her ‘day’ job as a faculty member, teaching, co-directing the Public Health Program, and administering a community-based Discovery research grant. Fearless in the face of a raging pandemic and her colleagues’ desires to push the boundaries of our safety protocols, she relentlessly stands her ground with grace and professionalism. I don’t know what we would have done without her. I am proud to recognize her leadership with the Homer P. Rainey Award.”
Turning his attention to Hubbard, O’Day continued, “A pandemic without connectivity would have been complete mayhem. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, technology, innovation, long hours, and leadership enabled Austin College to complete the spring semester of 2020, proceed last fall, and ultimately complete a successful academic year. Garrett Hubbard was at the helm of our technology system, navigating us through every single pivot and innovation. At virtual lightning speed last spring, he assembled viable technology options for faculty, staff, and students to move forward, and then he delivered on every point. He continued through the initial crisis of the pandemic and built sustainable operations for the entire year – holding fast despite virus attacks, Zoom bombers, and a devastating winter storm. Garrett led the team through disaster recovery, investigation, and an acceleration plan to modernize our IT infrastructure. He has shown extraordinary commitment to serving the College and supporting the community through the events of the past year. We recognize his dedication with the Homer P. Rainey Award.”
At the awards event, Dr. Renee Countryman, associate professor of psychology and director of the Neuroscience Program, was installed in The Richardson Chair for the Center for Research, Experiential, Artistic, And Transformative Education (CREATE).
Additionally, two faculty teaching awards are announced at Honors Convocation. The Austin College Piper Professor Nominee is considered a teaching award, and the 2021 recipient is Dr. Erin Copple Smith, associate professor of media studies and director of the First-Year Program. The recipient of the Austin College Excellence in Teaching and Leadership Award is Dr. John Richardson.
More than 100 students received academic awards and scholarships for departmental excellence.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, global awareness, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and an expert faculty of more than 100 educators allow a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. Related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Austin College cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. The College, founded in 1849, is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.